Homeschoolers stage march to exile
Source: WND Exclusive
By: Bob Unruh
July 10, 2012
Dozens of Swedish home educators from will walk 100 miles from the town of Asko to Stockholm then board a ferry to the nearby Aland Islands, a self-governing territory controlled by Finland, to highlight the plight of homeschool families under persecution in Sweden.
A spokesman for a leading international advocate for education freedom and homeschooling said many families already have fled Sweden because of the crackdown on rights.
“Families should not have to choose between love for their children and love for their homeland,” said Michael Donnelly, director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“The situation in Sweden went from bad to worse after the new education law passed in June 2010, and dozens of families have fled in the past two years,” he said. “We call upon Swedish officials to recognize the right of parents to direct the education of their children, explicitly protected in fundamental human rights documents.”
The protest march will include a walk for six days, July 13-19, from Asko to Stockholm, before marchers will take a boat to the Aland Islands.
The group of islands is under the jurisdiction of Finland but is self-governing. The Finnish constitution explicitly protects the rights of parents to direct the education of their children, and many Swedish families have made the move from their homeland to the islands to teach their own children.
In Sweden, in contrast, there is outright persecution of homeschoolers.
WND previously reported when the chief of a homeschooling organization in Sweden fled his home country because of badgering, fines, court hearings and threats over the best way to teach his own children.
According to a report in the New American, a publication of the John Birch Society, Jonas Himmelstrand of the Swedish Association for Home Education moved to the Aland Islands.
He was facing, among other threats, a fine of $26,000 for homeschooling.
The issue has developed since Sweden, which previously allowed homeschooling, banned it in all circumstances except in certain cases allowed by school authorities.
Testimonials in a video about the march express concern that Sweden “more or less is denying people their human rights” and is “creating its own set of refugees.”
The video notes that while it is not comparing the current Swedish regime to Hitler, it was under Hitler that such a law first was adopted.
The Romeike family in Germany was granted asylum in the United States by a judge who noted the persecution the family would face if forcibly returned to Germany, something the Obama administration is attempting to do in court.
The HSLDA said that when Sweden adopted its restrictive law the nation was continuing “down a dark path of totalitarianism in education.”
Organizers explain: “The walk represents the sacrifice made by so many of the Swedish home educators who are leaving the country they love to endeavor to find the freedom to home educate. We are hoping that this will symbolize the struggle that families are going through and send a powerful message to society, the media and the government and that to find freedom you actually have to leave Sweden.”
Donnelly is encouraging “all friends of homeschooling to watch and share the video above to raise awareness about the plight of our fellow home educators in Sweden and the Walk to Freedom.”
HSLDA reported that Himmelstrand and his wife had homeschooled their three children for years before authorities in their village abruptly denied them permission in 2008. The family faced fines of more than $26,000 for their decision to continue providing their children the best education they could.
HSLDA and the Alliance Defense Fund have been fighting on behalf of the family in Sweden’s appellate court.
HSLDA also cited the “alarming case” of Domenic Johansson.
In June 2009, Swedish police forcibly removed then-7-year-old Domenic from his parents, Christer and Annie, without a warrant, placed him in state custody and have not yet charged the Johanssons with a crime.
WND recently reported state attempts in the Johansson case to terminate Domenic’s parents’ rights were unsuccessful, and there are new calls for the social services agency that took the child to return him to his family.
WND also has reported on several cases in Sweden in which children were abducted by the state, the families left the country, and then parents hired a private detective literally to steal back their own children.
Donnelly has warned that Americans should be alarmed, too.
“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 said.