In a case that is causing international outrage, the Swedish government is now seeking to terminate the parental rights of a Swedish couple to their nine year-old son, who has been in state custody for 24 months simply because local officials objected to the fact that he was homeschooled.
According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), young Domenic Johansson, son of Christer and Annie Johansson, has been in foster care since 2009 when he was seized from the plane on which the family was attempting to flee to his mother's native India.
"The government shouldn't abduct and imprison children simply because it doesn't like homeschooling. That's bad enough. But now the state is going even further by attempting to get the parents out of the way altogether," said Alliance Defense Fund (ADf) Legal Counsel Roger Kiska. "This simply cannot stand. We will do everything in our power to help reunite this family."
The saga began when Domenic reached the age of compulsory school attendance and the Johanssons decided to home school him. Home schooling is legal in Sweden, and the couple contacted the Swedish Ministry of Education to make the arrangements. They were told to contact their local principal whose responsibility it was to assist them with home education and provide the necessary materials.
However, this principal was not in favor of homeschooling and was hostile to the parent's request.
“He was very short and not at all in favor of homeschooling," Christer told the HSLDA. "I told him that it was my right under Swedish law to home school and that I was making contact with him to make the necessary arrangements and to get the materials. We were planning to leave Sweden in just a month or two. Mr. Eneqvist told me that he ‘didn’t care about my right’ that I didn’t have a ‘right to educate my son like that’ and that he was going to take the matter farther.”
The couple, who are devout Christians, had been planning to return to India where they were going to start a new ministry with the poor, but decided to delay the trip in order to get their son's schooling arrangements made.
In August, 2008 the case reached the local school board and Christer sent a letter requesting help in resolving the issue. He was rebuffed by a board member who said she was "too busy" to meet with him. The next thing he knew, they were being fined 500 Swedish kroners (about $80) for every day that Domenic was absent from school. Christer called the board who informed him that the levying of the fine meant the Johansson family were not permitted to leave the country.
"Finally in January 2009, the school superintendent and a lawyer for the school met with me," Christer explained. "But it was more of the same. All they wanted to tell me was that Dominic had to go to school. I asked them if I could leave the country, and they said, yes, you can leave the country, but Dominic has to go to school. They just weren’t interested in having a dialogue with me and trying to help us educate our son as we thought best,” Christer recounted.
A court hearing on the matter was held in May, 2009, and the judge ruled against the fines and said it was okay for the family to leave the country. However, when they attempted to do so shortly thereafter, armed police entered the plane and bodily removed Domenic. He has been in state custody ever since.
Michael Donnelly, director of international relations for the HSLDA, told World Net Daily, "The only way I can think of describing the way the Swedish social and judicial systems have treated the Johansson family is barbaric – the harm done to them is beyond comprehension.
"Their most basic of human rights have been violated and no civilized country should permit this kind of treatment," he continued. "If the Swedish judicial system permits the termination of the Johansson's parental rights because of homeschooling, missed vaccinations and a few cavities it will have become the darkest of regimes for families in Western Europe."
The HSLDA has initiated a petition drive on behalf of the Johanssons asking Swedish authorities to allow the family to be reunited and to dismiss the social workers who committed this egregious human rights violation.
In addition, the HSLDA and the ADF have filed a joint application on behalf of the Johansson family at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and have been working to support the family since shortly after Domenic's seizure.
Click here to sign the petition.
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Photo is of Annie and Domenic Johansson