It is a case that has sent waves of terror into the hearts of Swedish parents who homeschool their children. Even the highly conservative Vatican has come out in support of the rights of parents to educate their children at home but the Swedish government remains steadfastly opposed to homeschooling. In a ruling that has disturbing implications for the future, a Swedish appeals court reversed a lower court ruling in favor of Annie and Christer Johansson and terminated their parental rights in regard to their son Dominic. Remarkably, the ruling came on International Human Rights Day.
The permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the United Nations spoke out strongly in support of parental rights:
“The State should respect the choices that parents make for their children and avoid attempts at ideological indoctrination.”
In plain English, the state has taken a child away from his family forever because they wanted to homeschool their son. The Home School Legal Defense Association called the court’s ruling “Family Execution—Swedish Style” and advocates of homeschooling around the world are simply stunned by the incredible cruelty of the Swedish authorities.
Making this case even worse is the manner in which the Swedish Social Services Agency has conducted itself in this case. They harassed the family for years and when they finally had enough, the Johansson’s decided to move back to Annie’s home country of India. As they sat on an airplane just a few minutes from take off, Swedish police stormed the plane and seized the child. He was placed in a foster home and the parents were only allowed to see their son on rare occasions under strict supervision.
There might be some sense in all of this if Dominic was an abused child or failing in his studies. But this is far from the reality of the situation. He was a bright young man, a good student in a happy home and he dearly loves his parents. Since he was taken away from his family in 2009, he has lost weight, experienced nightmares and the smile has entirely vanished from face. In short, Dominic is devastated by the separation from his parents and the authorities are unmoved by his suffering. They are out to crush homeschooling in Sweden and they are willing to destroy this charming youngster and his entire family to accomplish their goals.
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director for international affairs, called the decision “brutal.”
“The United States Supreme Court has called the termination of parental rights of the Family Court equivalent of the death penalty. After a district court victory we had hoped the end of this nightmare was approaching. At this point we can only hope that the Swedish Supreme Court will intervene to correct this grave injustice. The facts have shown Annie and Christer Johansson to be good parents. It is unconscionable that a court in a democratic country like Sweden could find it is in the child’s interests to remain separated from these parents. The pain, suffering and harm done to this family are incalculable.”
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, president of the Nordic Committee on Human Rights, said the ruling is “atrocious.”
“This is a despicable act. I don’t know how these judges can have done this. The chief judge wrote a strong dissent that I hope will make an impact on the Swedish Supreme Court. We will appeal this horrible decision. Annie collapsed when she heard the news. How can anyone endure this kind of torture for so long, I don’t know. It’s unbearable to see how the pride of government officials is wrecking the lives of the Johanssons and others like them. These people have broken the law by taking this boy without justification and keeping him for three-and-a-half years. It’s uncivilized.”