Swedish homeschooling leader flees country following alleged persecution
March 2, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - A leader in the Swedish homeschooling movement has fled the country, saying, “the safety of my family could no longer be guaranteed.”
Jonas Himmelstrand, who is president of the Swedish Association for Home Education (ROHUS), says that the government of the town of Uppsala was “threatening” him, according to a press release published by the organization on the Swedish public relations website MyNewsDesk.com.
“The threats from Uppsala municipality were too many, too brutal, and every invitation to dialogue was turned down,” Himmelstrand said. “The actions of the Uppsala local government could hardly be interpreted in any other way than as a hidden message of deportation.”
Himmelstrand had reason to fear the government of Sweden. In June of 2009 the government took custody of Domenic Johansson from his homeschooling family, in what has been called a “state-sponsored kidnapping, after months of conflict over the issue, and despite the fact that the practice was legal at that time.
Two and a half years later, Domenic Johansson remains isolated from his family, in the custody of foster parents assigned by the government. According to an update on the case recently published in Crisis magazine, Domenic’s mother Annie has since suffered a nervous breakdown, and a traumatized Domenic has been told by his foster parents that they will never permit him to return to his family.
ROHUS writes that the Himmelstrands were being harassed and threatened with fines of up to $26,000, which Jonas Himelstrand says was far beyond a normal penalty for the “crime” of educating one’s child at home. “It is hard to interpret this excessive amount in any other way than as a punishment for being President for ROHUS and for my international criticism of Swedish family policies,” Himmelstrand said.
”It is not possible to live in a country where leading politicians are ready to financially ruin a family for the sake of ideology, and threaten families with the sometimes incompetent, but always powerful Swedish social authorities. Beyond that, they have refused every invitation to meet and discuss the situation. It is not healthy to live under such stress,” he added. ROHUS writes that Himelstrand was told that the safety of his family could not be guaranteed if they remained in Sweden.
Himmelstrand and his family have joined several other Swedish homeschooling families on the Finnish Aland Islands, where the right to homeschool is recognized by the government. He says he feels an “incredible relief” and adds that “only now are we starting to understand the degree of pressure we have lived under for many years.”
”At the same time it is an almost surreal experience to be forced to leave Sweden for an issue which in most of the democratic world, and by the UN, is regarded as a human right,” Himelstrand said.