Pressure is mounting on a state-run social services agency in Sweden to return to his parents a 10-year-old boy who was taken into custody because he was being homeschooled, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled such separations can cause harm to children.
Domenic Johansson, then 7, was grabbed by police officers who descended on a jetliner he and his parents, Christer and Annie, had boarded in a move to his mother’s home country of India.
The social services agency that orchestrated the seizure repeatedly has refused requests for Domenic to be returned to his parents. WND reported just days ago that Lotta Edholm, a prominent leader of Sweden’s liberal party, wrote in an article in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that the nation’s social service laws should be changed to encourage social workers to take children away from homeschooling families.
The Alliance Defense Fund and the Home School Legal Defense Association, which have filed a case on behalf of the family with the international court, now have submitted a motion urging Domenic be returned to his parents.
The filing followed a ruling from the same court that children can be harmed irreparably if separated from their parents for extended periods, specifically for more than three years.
“The government shouldn’t abduct and imprison children simply because it doesn’t like homeschooling. This atrocity must stop,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe. “The recent ruling from Europe’s highest court recognizes the harm that comes to a child when he is separated from his parents for such an excessive amount of time. Domenic should be returned to his parents immediately.”
ADF said it was the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights that concluded in a case out of Switzerland, Neulinger and Shuruk v. Switzerland, that a child separated from a custodial parent for more than three years can be irreparably harmed by the upheaval in his living circumstances.
The new motion on Domenic’s behalf argues the court’s own determination “highlights the urgency of granting interim measures in the Johansson case.”
Christer and Domenic Johansson
“Gotland (Sweden) Social Services continues to unlawfully hinder reunification and minimize parental visitation both in violation of Domenic’s rights and the parents’ rights. Like in Neulinger and Shuruk, this separation has been ongoing for nearly three years. We therefore urge the European Court not to wait any longer to impose interim measures in reuniting Domenic with his natural parents, Annie and Christer Johansson,” the motion explains.
Swedish authorities forcibly removed Domenic from his parents in June 2009. The officials did not have a warrant nor did they charge the Johanssons with any crime. The officials seized the child because he was homeschooled, even though homeschooling was legal in Sweden at the time he was taken into custody, ADF reported.
“It now appears obvious that the Swedish government intends to keep permanent custody of this boy simply because his parents wished to move to India and to homeschool him,” the motion states.
“The immediate reunification of Domenic Johansson with his custodial parents is paramount in the best interests of Domenic and his social and psychological well being,” it says.
“There is no justification for separating Domenic from his parents for this long,” explained HSLDA lawyer Mike Donnelly, one of nearly 2,100 attorneys in the ADF alliance. “We remain gravely concerned about this case as it represents what can happen to other homeschooling families.”
Authorities cited the family’s previous homeschooling, even though the Johansson’s were leaving Sweden permanently, as the reason for taken the child into custody.
Domenic’s parents have not seen him in more than a year, HSLDA said. Recently, a Swedish court denied the social services’ attempt to terminate the Johanssons’ parental rights.
WND reported previously on several cases in which children were taken by authorities in Sweden over homeschooling. But a private detective literally abducted back the children and reunited them with their parents who had moved out of the country.
The conflicts in Sweden are getting as contentious as in Germany, where a long list of families simply have fled their home country instead of face the crushing fines, jail sentences and even destruction of families that government officials demand.
It was in a dramatic case just last year, involving the Romeike family, that a U.S. immigration judge granted political asylum in the U.S. because of the persecution they would face in they return to Germany. The Obama administration is appealing that ruling, seeking to send the family back.
Donnelly said what happens in Germany and now Sweden needs to be noted in the United States because of the habit officials have of adopting controversial European actions.
“In her book ‘What Is Right for Children,’ Emory University School of Law professor Martha Albertson-Fineman makes the argument that it is not enough that children have the opportunity to go to public school – they must all go to public school, meaning that homeschooling and private schools should be banned,” he said.
“This is one of the reasons why it is important for American homeschoolers to be interested in what happens overseas. By fighting these ideas wherever they occur globally, we can prevent them from gaining traction here,” Donnelly continued.