It makes homes more comfortable with IKEA, driving safer with
Volvo, and communication easier with Skype -- but when it comes to
homeschooling, the country of Sweden makes parents' life as
difficult as possible.
Soon after losing a major legal battle to the Namdar family over
the right to homeschool their children for religious reasons, the
Swedish government stuck back with an appeal in the Supreme
Administrative Court in an attempt to swipe that right away.
Because of the political and secular
climate within Sweden's public schools, Rabbi Alexander Namdar and
his wife Leah (see photo [right], compliments of Lubavitch News
Service) decided to home educate their children to ensure that
their instruction ran parallel to their Jewish beliefs. Just weeks
after an appellate judge's verdict supported the parents' right to
homeschool their five children, Swedish government officials
challenged the decision.
Earlier this year, the Swedish authorities threatened to fine
the Namdar family each day they withheld their children from
attending public school in order to instruct them from home. The
Namdars then filed suit, challenging the Gothenburg municipality's
decision coercing them to abide by the Swedish school law, which
declares that homeschooling is only permitted in "exceptional
circumstances" and never based on religious or philosophical family
viewpoints. When the judge examined the exemplary education the
children were receiving at home, it was found that Sweden is
obliged to respect familial convictions.
But this latest appeal is no stranger
to Swedes. Just a month ago the country's Social Welfare Committee,
which kept Swedish homeschooler Domenic Johansson separated from
his parents for more than three years, appealed a June decision
that upheld the parental rights of his father and mother, Christer
and Annie Johansson (left). In 2009, Swedish police seized
seven-year-old Domenic after boarding a plane bound from Sweden as
the family was minutes from departing to do missionary work in
India. Initially, state authorities "permitted" the parents to see
Dominic one hour every five weeks, but they haven't seen Dominic
since December 2010.
Homeschooling … right or left?
Such authoritarian policies that allow the type of government
intervention that usurped the Johanssons' and Namdars' parental
rights are not even in line with the United Nations Declaration of
Human Rights, says Annelie Enochson, a member of the Christian
"Many [families] want home schooling for other reasons [than
religious motivation]," stated Enochson in an interview with the
Swedish newspaper, Metro ― when commenting on the Namdar
lawsuit. "Maybe the kids have been bullied or have experienced this
form of schooling in other countries that has been successful.
Sweden is deviant in this respect compared to other countries."
This view is not shared by the leftist sector of society, which
seeks to eradicate homeschooling and anything that does not align
with the state's agenda concerning its ultimate control of
education and children. In fact, one state sympathizer, Helene
Odenjung, who is a member of the Liberal party, sees the Namdar
case in a whole new light, believing that one more favorable
decision will "open the doors for stricter legislation" over home
"I welcome the trial," Odenjung told the Metro. "[Yet]
it is very unfortunate if the court rules that one may be exempted
from tuition and compulsory schooling for religious reasons.
Legislation [about homeschooling] has already been tightened, but
there is a risk that one cannot maintain the qualified teaching
that everyone is entitled to."
Despite the uncertain results of the ongoing litigation, Mike
Donnelly, the director of international relations for the Home School Legal Defense
Association, sees the value in cases such as the Namdars',
which has grabbed worldwide attention. He appreciates political
leaders who step up against the long arm of the government to
champion parental rights and the integrity of the family unit.
"I commend Ms. Enochson for her statements that recognize the
fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and
upbringing of children as a natural right," Donnelly proclaims.
"The Johansson and Namdar families represent many other Swedish
parents who long to be free to educate their children at home."
Homeschooling's Declaration of Independence
Last month, in a concerted international effort to protect the
millennia-old practice of homeschooling, hundreds of homeschool
leaders gathered at the inaugural Global Home Education Conference in Berlin,
Germany, to sign the Berlin Declaration [PDF], which begins:
"We signatories of
this declaration presented on November 3, 2012 at the first Global
Home Education Conference in Berlin, Germany hereby,
Remind all nations that numerous international treaties
and declarations recognize the essential, irreplaceable and
fundamental role of parents and the family in the education and
upbringing of children as a natural right that must be respected
and protected by all governments, Affirm home education as
a practice where parents and children undertake the activity of
education themselves to pursue learning that meets the needs of the
family and children, [and] Note that in Article 26 part 3
of the [United Nations'] Universal Declaration of Human Rights of
1948 stating that 'parents have a prior right to choose the kind of
education that shall be given to their children' elevates and
indicates the preeminence of the right of parents and the family in
relation to the State…"
The Berlin Declaration goes on to lay out five
clear action points that are being taken so that governments around
the world will observe parental rights in regards to education.
Noting that "credible and scientific research indicate[s] that home
education is an effective means of educating children to become
literate and productive citizens and members of civil society and
that there is no evidence at all of harm to children or an
increased risk of harm on the basis of home education," it sets out
- "Condemn the policies of those nations that prohibit the
practice of home education and permit the persecution of home
educating families through excessive or coercive fines, threats to
parental custody and application of criminal sanctions,"
- "Urge all members of the international community to take
concrete steps to affirm in their law, policy, and civil and
criminal procedures that parents have a natural and fundamental
right to direct the education and upbringing of their children
which includes the right to choose the type of education their
child shall receive including home education,"
- "Encourage states to consider the growing body of research
about home education and take steps to review laws, policies and
procedures to make it possible for all parents to participate in
- "Urge the assistance of human rights bodies, governments, NGOs,
elected and appointed government officials and individual citizens
to seek greater respect for the fundamental right of parents to
choose the kind of education their children receive including home
- "Request the global home education community take active steps
to communicate this resolution to their governments and to take all
steps necessary to recognize the right of families to home
education as a non-derogable and fundamental human right regardless
of the motivation or methodology of those who chose it,"
- "[and] Commit to support freedom, diversity and pluralism in
education through formal and informal coordination with the goal of
making home education a legitimate educational option in every
nation and the right of every family and child."
HSLDA founder and chairman Michael P. Farris,
Esq. contends that this declaration is absolutely essential to
upholding the rights that parents have taken for granted for
millennia past. He asserts that nations not recognizing global
legislation protecting such parental rights concerning education
are guilty of great offenses against the family unit.
"Denying parents the right to choose education
in conformity with their religious and philosophical convictions,
including home education, is an act of a rogue state and bears the
same level of shame in international law as the practice of
indiscriminate killing, torture, and slavery," Farris contends.
"States that deny parents the right to control the education of
their children are condemned by international human rights law for
an invasion of the highest level of protection - the denial of a