Author: ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska
Think about it. Out of all the world regimes over the past century, which ones do you think would be most opposed to homeschooling? Nazi Germany, communist Russia, and nations enforcing Islamic Sharia Law first come to mind. And what is the common tie to all of these? Control. Unfortunately, with socialist agendas sweeping the globe, the mindless conformity of youth through indoctrination at government-run schools to the government’s point of view on social, political, and moral issues is a top priority of many nations falsely aspiring for a global community of “tolerance.”
But today, the suppression of parental rights to teach and influence their own children isn’t restricted to overtly fascist regimes. Take a look at Sweden, home of Ikea and Volvos. A couple months ago in June, attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and the Home School Legal Defense Association filed Johansson v. Sweden with the European Court of Human Rights so that that the Swedish government will return a seven-year-old homeschooled boy to his parents. Dominic Johansson was forcibly seized by Swedish authorities from his parents in June 2009 after they had boarded a plane in their move to India. The reason? He was homeschooled. No warrant was issued before taking him into state custody, and the family was charged with no crime. Young Dominic was abducted because officials deemed home instruction to be an unsuitable method of raising a child, insisting that the government knows better about how to rear children. Dominic is now in foster care and attends a government school. Heartbreakingly, his parents are only allowed to see their son for one hour every five weeks. To “justify” their action, Swedish authorities cited the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and quite shockingly, the White House and some members of Congress have expressed interest in ratifying this authoritarian treaty so that this type of government control could be exercised on our shores.
South of Sweden, in a land once shrouded under the Nazi flag, Adolf Hitler is said to have stated, “Let me control the textbooks and I will control the state. The state will take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing. Your child belongs to us already…what are you?” Ironically, after all that Germany has been through and the distance it wants to keep from that madman, it is taking a similar approach to homeschooling within its borders today. Its policy on education forced one homeschooling family to seek asylum in the United States, with funding provided by ADF and HSLDA. In August 2008, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children fled persecution in Germany to avoid being jailed and losing custody of their children after being fined several times for homeschooling. Earlier this year in January, a U.S. Immigration Court judge granted the family asylum in Tennessee in the case In the Matter of Romeike, reportedly calling Germany’s anti-homeschooling policy “repellant to everything we believe as Americans.” But does the “we” include our own government?
Despite the proliferating homeschooling movement in the U.S., with between two and four million children now being taught from home, the education and judicial systems have had a hard time leaving the influence of youth to their parents. Case in point: In the Matter of Kurowski and Kurowski, a legal matter that demonstrates how the courts have leaned toward state influence over parental influence when it comes to the education of children. Following a divorce, the father of 10-year-old homeschooled Amanda Kurowski had second thoughts about his former wife homeschooling their daughter, even though she performed well both socially and academically. The father contended that his daughter’s strong Christian beliefs needed to be sifted and challenged in a public school setting, and the lower court agreed in July 2009, issuing an order for her to enroll in a government-run school and discontinue homeschooling.
Now, of course, sometimes divorced parents do not agree on details of how to raise their child. Courts may rightly be called to resolve such disputes. But a judge must exercise the right standards when called upon to break a deadlock. When a dispute between these parents arose over homeschooling, the court looked past traditional arguments and made the chilling observation that Amanda’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.” In other words, the court was attempting to say that it knows better than a parent when a child is getting too much religious teaching. Such reasoning goes to show that, even in the U.S., it has become a main priority of public schools to challenge and convert students’ thinking to reflect that of the state, rather than those espoused at home. Last November, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed to hear this case after the lower court refused to lift the order and denied a motion to stay filed by an ADF-allied attorney representing the mother and child. Hopefully, this time around, the court will be able to reach a resolution that will not take the unwarranted extra step that the original court took.
So, could Europe’s degree of intolerance and crackdown on homeschooling reach American shores anytime soon? It all depends on how vigilant we are in opposing decisions like the one in New Hampshire—and it’s precisely why ADF is fighting to protect parental rights in that case and abroad so that a very nasty cancer is not allowed to grow.