Wednesday July 26, 2000


Family Face Inspections, Fines, Even Police Raid

BONN, July 26 ( – In April, in the town of Schloss Holte-Stukenbroch, Germany, three police officers stormed Johann Harder’s home overturning furniture, shouting, smashing a camera which attempted to photograph their actions, and tearing weeping children from their parents. The crime: homeschooling. The July 8 edition of World magazine reports that homeschooling is illegal in Germany and city Mayor Hubert Erlichlandwehr wanted to make an example of the Harders, a homeschooling family with 11 children, from three months old to 24 years in age.

The Harders are described as a “very committed” Christian family belonging to a Baptist church who pulled their children from the public school system after they were troubled by the sex education, acceptance of homosexuality, and “occultism” (in-class meditation sessions) in school.Ê Although illegal Harder felt he had to rescue his children from the system since, as he put it, “In school, the consciences are being destroyed but for us conscience is number one!”

The city repeatedly threatened Mr. Harder with fines and worse, but he resisted. At one point a court order even removed custody of his children, but that was quashed. However, after the birth of their eleventh child in March, the police began showing up to take the children. When the children were found at home, the police took them to school and Mr. Harder would have to retrieve them after classes ended for the day. An April 6 letter from the Mayor threatens Mr. Harder with fines of $250 per child per day. If he does not pay (and Mr. Harder could not afford such fines) he may be jailed and lose custody of his children. Mr. Harder was scheduled to appear in court on June 16, but the hearing has been postponed indefinitely.

The Home School Legal Defense Association in the US has been assisting by developing a similar organization in Germany. German homeschoolers are asking American homeschool supporters to write the German embassy on behalf of the Harders. An HSLDA lawyer notes that that letter-writing campaigns helped free a South African couple jailed for homeschooling in 1994 and helped convince the South African government to legalize homeschooling two years later.

Email the German embassy in Ottawa at:
[email protected]

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