Two legal groups partnered Friday to bring the case of a seven-year-old boy, who was removed from his Christian parents for being homeschooled, to a human rights court.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund and the Home School Legal Defense Association have filed an application with the European Court of Human Rights to request it to hear the case involving Dominic Johansson.
“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without government interference,” said ADF Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is based in Europe, in a statement. “A government trying to create a cookie-cutter child in its own image should not be allowed to violate this basic and fundamental human right.”
In June 2009, Swedish authorities forcibly removed Dominic from his parents after the family had boarded a plane headed to India, the mother’s home country. Officials did not have a warrant and did not charge the Johanssons with any crime. The officials insisted that homeschooling was an inappropriate way to raise a child.
Dominic, the couple’s only child, now lives in foster care and attends a government school. His parents, Christer and Annie Johansson, are only allowed to visit their son one hour every five weeks.
It is legal to home school in Sweden, although very few families do so. There is no exact number of how many families home school in Sweden, but My Alternative to School, a Swedish homeschooling association, says there are under 100 homeschoolers.
ADF attorneys have sent inquiries to Swedish authorities regarding the Johanssons but Swedish authorities have cited the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child to defend their action.
The Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden has refused to review a lower court’s December 2009 ruling in Johansson v. Gotland Social Services that found the government was within its rights to seize the child. The lower court cited the fact that Dominic had not been vaccinated as a reason to remove him permanently from his parents. The court also repeatedly claimed homeschooled students performed more poorly academically and were not as well socialized.
“It’s one of the most disgraceful abuses of power we have ever witnessed,” said attorney Mike Donnelly with the Home School Legal Defense Association in an earlier statement. “The Swedish government says it is exercising its authority under the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in their unnecessary break up of this family.”
“We fear that all homeschooling families in that country are at risk.”
Initially, the Johanssons were allowed two hours per week of visitation. But it was cut to only one hour every fifth week. The family also could not visit during Christmas because social workers were on vacation.
“Without help, the parents in these cases are really powerless since the system is so one-sided,” commented Kiska.
Donnelly said other homeschooling families have also reported having difficulties with local officials.