I am looking at a beautiful photograph of a young mother and her son. She has long brown hair and her arms are wrapped protectively around her beloved child. This is Annie and her son’s name is Domenic. They have been ripped apart by their government. In June 2009 Swedish police boarded a plane bound for India, Annie’s home country where they were moving to be close to her family, and kidnapped Domenic,
“Without a warrant or reasonable cause to believe he was being harmed.”
I spoke with Mike Donnelly in May 2010, almost a year later about this heartbreaking state of affairs and he likened it to having a limb amputated. Domenic is living in a state appointed foster home where he attends a local school and is only allowed to see his parents for an hour every five weeks with the occasional phone call.
The Swedish court appointed Ruby Harrold-Claesson, a human rights lawyer specializing in cases where children have been taken by the state or other government officials. This was a surprise move by the Swedish authorities and happened after Domenic’s father, Christer, rejected a local attorney to represent the family. Mr. Donnelly suspects that the Swedish Government is interested in finding out how this case pans out, in the meantime using Domenic and his family as pawns, in a cruel power play.
In May 2010 when the parents wanted to take their lawyer to see the school environment where government officials had placed their son, Domenic was taken out of the back door and whisked away in a truck by his foster parents. Because of his parents’ attempt to see their son a social services agent emailed them saying,
“After what happened today at the school, we have decided that you will not be allowed to talk to Domenic on the phone this evening.”
This smacks of the bullies encountered on the playground by innocent children each day, it reminds me of vindictive teachers at school out to make their charges’ lives miserable. It is hard to remember this is a Western European country I’m talking about, and the year is 2010. Unfortunately for the Johansson family, they are not living in America.
The situation is the,
“Kind of gross disregard these social services agents have for basic human dignity,” says Mike Donnelly, “the family were simply accompanying their lawyer on a visit to the school to see Domenic’s educational environment. We continue to hope that justice will prevail although it will be very difficult for the family to heal from this totally unnecessary trauma inflicted upon them by Swedish authorities.”
Homeschooling is permitted in Sweden though not many families do it. Since this case came to public attention through the work of HSLDA, the government is going to make homeschooling illegal by the passing of a law within the next few weeks. There is a petition for the release of Domenic online and you can go to HSLDA.org to sign it and also to sign a petition about the upcoming homeschool law. Mr. Donnelly says the Swedish Government are using the Johanssons and the fact that they homeschool, and legally opted out of vaccinating their son, as weak excuses for holding the boy in forced custody and separating him from his family.
Christer and his wife, Annie, have been shocked by what has happened,
“While we may do things differently than most Swedes, we have not broken any laws and we have not harmed our son. We decided as a family that we wanted to move to India where we could be near my wife’s family. But the government has taken over my family, and now we are living in a nightmare. I fear for the life of my wife under this torture and for the well-being of my son who has only been allowed to see (us) for a few hours since he was taken. The government is alienating my son from me, and I am powerless to do anything.” Christer Johansson made this online statement at the time of the abduction last June, almost a year ago.
“The hostility against homeschooling and for parent’s rights,” says Donnelly, “is contrary to everything expected from a Western nation.”
“Sweden is completely antagonistic towards homeschoolers,” reports HSLDA, “and anyone who deviates from what the Swedish government defines as ‘normal.’ The government’s quest for conformity produces troubling side-effects: the criminalization of actions, such as parents’ decision regarding the best form of education for his child, that ought to be the hallmarks of a free, democratic society,” HSLDA continues, “Taking children from their parents…for homeschooling (them) is completely at odds with the basic human rights which all Western democracies should reflect.”
Roger Kiska, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney based in Europe says,
“What you have here is a socialist country trying to create a cookie cutter kid. This kind of thing happens too often where social workers take a child and then just keep him.”
As American homeschoolers let’s show our support for those who are harassed for their choices around the world, especially in Western Europe. First let us offer up prayers for the Johansson family that Domenic is quickly re-united with his parents:
Lord, you have given us our children as gifts to watch over, protect and educate, showing them how to follow Christ faithfully and bringing them up to be steadfast witnesses of your power and glory. Grant Christer and Annie the peace that will only come when their son Domenic is returned to them safely. Let’s also remember the Romeike’s from Germany who are living in Tennessee under political asylum to escape the persecution they suffered in their homeland when they refused to stop homeschooling their children. Lord, bless the Romeike family and uphold them in their courageous decision to exercise their parental rights to educate their children in the way they think best. Help them to overcome the obstacles that have been put in their way as they make a new life for themselves on American soil. Soften the hearts of those in power, Lord, and allow them to remain faithful to the basic human rights of freedom, dignity and respect. Thank you Lord for all those people who fight for our nation to keep us free, especially our soldiers and vigilant lawyers. Amen.
Four years on and the Johanssons are still not united with their son Domenic.