Lev Tahor and The Quebec Homeschooling Case

Nachman Helbrans (front), son of group founder Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, said, "We were speaking with lawyers and organizations — especially the Home School Legal Defense Association and many associations associated with them — and all of them tell us that we must leave Quebec."
Nachman Helbrans (front), son of group founder Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, said, “We were speaking with lawyers and organizations — especially the Home School Legal Defense Association and many associations associated with them — and all of them tell us that we must leave Quebec.”

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on December 1, 2013.

Lev Tahor  or Lev Tohor [Website] is a fringe movement from within ultra-orthodox Judaism and is headed by Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans (also known as Rabbi Erez Shlomo Elbarnes, Erez Albaranes, Shlomo Helbran, and Rabbi Shlomo Halbernetz) and his son Nachman. The Rabbi is now estranged from his wife and one of his sons, who are now in Israel.

Information below in the various news articles and blogs will detail information linking Rabbi Helbrans to the group “Hisachdus Hayereim” (Union of the God-Fearing) and others.

Brief History of Lev Tahor

Previously, Lev Tahor has been called a “Haredi burqa sect” or part of the “Jewish Taliban”.

Lev Tahor are known in Canada and Israel for homeschooling their children; their women and girls holding to very strict (even to Orthodox Jewish ideals) modesty standards that include wearing a similar clothing standard to a burqa or niqab, and a few run-ins with the law between the 1980s and 1990s. Lev Tahor is again in the news due to some child welfare and homeschooling concerns that the state of Quebec has with the group.

The name “Lev Tahor” could be translated clean or pure heart, which references a passage from Psalm 51:10, and began in Jerusalem in the 1980s. Shlomo and Malka Helbrans lived in Safed, Israel,  for six years as Baalei Teshuva. In the mid-1980s, though he had not been given Smicha, he opened a yeshiva (Braslav Yeshivat Hametivta) in Jerusalem after relocating his family there.

About a third of the sect members are baalei teshuva (Individuals raised as non-religious who later became religious.), another third come from other Hasidic groups, and the final third are people who have been raised in the movement. In the last thirty years, members have followed the Helbrans family from Israel to the United States and Canada.

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans Convicted of Kidnapping

Lev Tahor members are known in Canada and Israel for homeschooling their children and for modesty standards that include wearing a similar clothing standard to a burqa or niqab.
Lev Tahor members are known in Canada and Israel for homeschooling their children and for modesty standards that include wearing a similar clothing standard to a burqa or niqab.

The movement relocated to Williamsburg and later to Monsey [in New York] in the 1990s.  Sometime between 1991 and 1993, a student was put under Rabbi Helbrans’ wing to study for his Bar Mitzvah. The child went missing and his mother involved the police in the search for him. The child’s mother was not religious and was separated from her abusive husband who is now in Israel. He returned to the United States to search for his son and the rabbi attempted to extort large sums of money from the family to return the child to their care.

Once the son was returned, he appeared in court and  later ran away again, News reports had been made of his random appearances in various places around the world. Some reports say that he is no longer religious.

  • After a 10-month investigation by state and federal authorities, Rabbi Schlomo Helbrans, whose yeshiva Shai had attended, was indicted recently on charges of kidnapping and conspiracy, along with his wife, Malka, and one of his followers, Mordechai Weisz. The case is expected to go to trial sometime this fall or winter.. [Source]
  • Hearing that Shai refused to attend school, Weisz proposed that the boy spend Sabbaths with him, promising Hana that he wouldn’t let Helbrans get near the boy. Hana consented, and for a few weeks that arrangement seemed to work. Shai went back to public school and seemed to be returning to normal. [Source]
  • Tobias Freund, 36, the man convicted Wednesday, had told the grand jury that he was not involved in the boy’s disappearance, but prosecutors said he drove the boy out of the city. The boy has not been found. A jury convicted Mr. Freund of three counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice, for altering his phone records.[Source]
  • Rabbi Helbrans offered the plea of guilty to a charge of conspiracy to kidnap in the fourth degree in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn. The plea was part of an intricate arrangement with the Brooklyn District Attorney that will give the rabbi a sentence of five years’ probation and 250 hours of community service… Charges were dropped for… Malka..  [Source]
  • A Jewish teen-ager reunited with his parents after he disappeared for two years in a struggle over his religious training will be separated from them again, a judge ruled here today. [Source]
  • … Justice Thaddeus E. Owens rejected a plea deal granting probation to the accused rabbi — a deal the judge had already accepted last month — after hearing yesterday from the boy, his divorced parents, the rabbi and some of the lawyers in the case in an hourlong session in a packed courtroom.[Source]
  • The youth has said he willingly chose to live a secret life from early 1992 until late this February with various Orthodox families in Rockland County. His parents and lawyers contend now that he has been brainwashed and needs psychiatric care.[Source]
  • A Hasidic rabbi yesterday withdrew his guilty plea to a lesser charge and will stand trial on charges of kidnapping a Jewish teen-ager from his parents. [Source]
  • Shai Fhima, who has been at the center of a long custody battle after he disappeared with a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn, has disappeared again, his mother says. [Source]
  • Shlomo Helbrans, responded that Shai had voluntarily run away from a home in which he had been physically abused, and Shai made the same contention after he reappeared. The teen-ager also vowed that if forced to return to his parents, he would flee — a promise on which he has since made good. [Source]
  • Shlomo Helbrans, said ” ‘If you don’t want your son to be religious I have the right to take him away from you’ ” and after one of the rabbi’s followers “held my arm and twisted my arm.”She acknowledged that her son, who is now 15, wanted to stay at the Borough Park yeshiva rather than go home with her to Ramsey, N.J., but she suggested that he had been brainwashed.[Source]
  • The defense lawyers told the jury that Shai had voluntarily run away from a dysfunctional family in which his stepfather beat his mother and him, sending them to a shelter for battered women. They held that the rabbi and his wife had given the boy sanctuary and had not criminally abetted his disappearance.[Source]
  • Mr. Reuven, a 35-year-old Israeli citizen… learned from an Israeli newspaper article in late April 1992 that his son had allegedly been kidnapped on April 5, 1992. He said he then had a series of conversations with Rabbi Helbrans by telephone from Israel, while preparing to travel to New York to find his son. [Source]
  • With Mr. Reuven on the witness stand, a prosecutor, Michael Vecchione, read an excerpt from the transcript in which Rabbi Helbrans is quoted as having said to Mr. Reuven, “The amount that I committing (sic) myself to is in the neighborhood of $10,000. More than that I would not be able to.” [Source]
  • The leader of a small ultra-Orthodox Hasidic group, 32-year-old Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, was found guilty of abducting Shai Fhima Reuven, who was 13 when he disappeared in 1992. Helbrans’ wife, Malka, 33, was found guilty of conspiracy. [Source]
  • In suburban Rockland County, Shai’s mother is fighting for custody of him with Rabbi Aryeh Zaks. Pending a decision, Zaks has custody and Shai’s mother can see him once a week. [Source]
  • In a courtroom rife with rancorous passion, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi was sentenced yesterday to 4 to 12 years in prison for kidnapping a Jewish teen-ager who disappeared from his family for two years. [Source]
  • “This kidnap is not over for me,” the mother, Hana Fhima, said in a packed Brooklyn courtroom, referring to a battle she has been waging with another rabbi for custody of her son, Shai Fhima Reuven, since he resurfaced last February in Rockland County. The youth, now 15, was 13 when he vanished in 1992 after Mrs. Fhima sent him for bar mitzvah instruction to a yeshiva Rabbi Helbrans then ran in Brooklyn. [Source]
  • Tai Ellin-Byrd, one of the dozen jurors who convicted Helbrans of kidnapping … said that “this sentence is morally appropriate.” The jury, which deliberated for just five hours following the five-week trial in New York State Supreme Court, was “pretty much unanimous” about Helbrans’ [guilt] as soon as they walked into the deliberation room. [Source]
  • Mr. Weisz was originally charged with kidnapping, but the case was severed from the charges against Rabbi Helbrans. Malka Helbrans, 33, who was tried along with her husband, was acquitted of the kidnapping charge but convicted of criminal conspiracy. [Source]
  • “I feel the evidence was legally insufficient,” Justice Thaddeus E. Owens of State Supreme Court in Brooklyn said in dismissing the wife’s conviction. On Nov. 9, a jury had convicted the woman, Malka Helbrans, of conspiring to kidnap the teen-ager, Shai Fhima Reuven. [Source]
  • For the first time, New York State accepted a computer-generated image of what an inmate, in this case, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, would look like without a beard instead of making him shave for a conventional photograph.  [Source]
  • MATTER MALKA HELBRANS v. THADDEUS E. OWENS (06/27/94)

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans Deported

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans was found guilty of abducting Shai Fhima Reuven.
Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans was found guilty of abducting Shai Fhima Reuven.

During the court case, it was uncovered that the Rabbi moved to the United States illegally. By 1994, Rabbi Helbrans was convicted of kidnapping a minor child.  His wife and a member of the sect were given lighter sentences.  A book was written about the case and entitled “The Zaddik: The Battle for a Boy’s Soul”, which was published in 2001.

There are some allegations that Rabbi Helbrans was given preferential treatment during court proceedings and his later incarceration. He did not complete his lengthy jail sentence.

  • PEOPLE v. HELBRANS, June 17, 1996
  • The federal probe also focuses on whether the Pataki administration gave preferential treatment to Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, who in a notorious case in 1994, was convicted of kidnapping teenager Shai Fhima Reuven from his mother. Wiesenfeld, a former aide to Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and a former FBI agent, declined to comment about the grand jury. [Source]
  • The federal government is also focusing on a similar but separate case involving possible lenient treatment given by parole officials to Shlomo Helbrans, a Hasidic rabbi imprisoned in a widely publicized kidnapping case. Rabbi Helbrans was deported to Israel in May, his lawyer has said, but federal officials say their investigation is continuing. [Source]
  • An influential Pataki fund-raiser also intervened in the case of Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, seeking an early release hearing, according to the papers and sources.[Source]
  • State records show that prison officials moved the rabbi, Shlomo Helbrans, from prison into a work-release program even though he was ineligible for the transfer because Federal immigration officials wanted to deport him. The transfer in June 1996 was rescinded after a Federal prosecutor who had brought charges against Rabbi Helbrans protested to state prison officials.[Source]

After being awarded parole, Rabbi Helbrans was investigated by the Immigration and Naturalization Service and deported to Israel in 1996.

  • Rabbi Helbrans, 38, an Israeli citizen, was arrested Wednesday night by agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the police station in Spring Valley, N.Y. …was put on a plane for Israel at 5:25 p.m., his lawyer, Ronald G. Russo, said.  [Source]
  • Immigration officials on May 11 deported Helbrans, 38, on two grounds: that he entered the United States illegally and that convicted felons can be deported.[Source]
  • The rabbi was found guilty of kidnapping, jailed for two years and deported to Israel — despite testimony from Shai, who had resurfaced after two years in places like a yeshiva in France, that he had voluntarily run away after the Helbrans family showed him ”what a normal family was.” [Source]
  • In 1997, a book about the trial (With Liberty and Justice for all?) was written by Jacob Y. Zick. It is now available on the Lev Tahor website in PDF format.

Lev Tahor Moves to Canada

Sometime after this, Rabbi Helbrans was linked to the Marii Zambron murder case in New York in 2000. [Source] The Lev Tahor movement then relocated to Canada [in 2000] while the rabbi was on a on a temporary visa. Families of the sect began joining him soon after. While this is not unusual for most of Orthodox Judaism, it is what was uncovered after this in Canada and Israel that is pertinent to the current case in Canada.

  • Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v. Elbarnes, 2005 FC 70 (CanLII)
  • Vaad Hoaskonim, a New York-based rabbinical council with members in Williamsburg, Boro Park, Monsey and Queens, ruled that Elbarnes’s movement is “a great threat, spiritual and physical, to the Torah-observant community.” The council forbade members of their communities to associate with Elbarnes and urged his followers to leave him. [Source]
  • Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent tribunal, accepted Elbarnes’s claim that he would be in danger if deported to Israel, and so it granted him refugee status. This month, however, the Federal Court of Canada granted leave to the federal government to appeal the tribunal’s ruling. The appeal is to be heard October 5, probably in Montreal. [Source]
  • Those speaking up for him included well-known Montreal human rights lawyer Julius Grey and anti-Zionist history professor Yakov Rabkin. [Source]
  • Elbarnes advocates the end of Israel as an independent country and turning the land over to the Arabs, he would likely not enjoy protection by the Israeli government because his ideas could be viewed as dangerous.  [Source]
  • Elbarnes, 42, was granted refugee status by IRB judge Gilles Ethier, who based his decision on documents, written testimony and the oral testimony of eight witnesses, including Elbarnes’ mother, described as secular, and the abducted boy, now an adult. [Source]
  • Shlomo Helbrans-Satmar style Rebbe and head of polygamist cult (Lev Tahor) based in Quebec. He is accused of marrying off his underage daughter to a man in his 30’s and arranging similar such marriages among members of his cult. He was also involved in the notorious Shai Fhima abduction case, it is also interesting to note Fhima’s own allegations that he was sexually molested while living among the cult. [Source]
  • Rabbi Shlomo Helbran and his wife Malka and Mordechai Weisz,were originally accused of physical abuse and kidnapping of a 13-year-old boy.  The rabbi was also accused of having cult like practices.  Rabbi Helbran was convicted in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn in 1994 of kidnapping a young boy.  At the time Helbran headed a small group described as an offshoot of the Satmar movement of the Hasidic Jews. [Source]

In 2004, the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada linked Neturei Karta and Lev Tahor together and sought to better understand these communities.

In 2006, The Awareness Center, Inc.  put together research on Lev Tahor and Rabbi Helbrans.

In 2007, there was a hearing convened by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, concerning Lev Tahor and Rabbi Helbrans

In 2008, Lev Tahor were among the protesters during the  Israel Day celebrations in Montreal.

  • The major addition to this year’s Jewish protest at the Israel Day commemoration was the 35 Lev Tahor Chasidic community members from Ste-Agathe, north of Montréal with Rabbi Elbrans.  [source]

Beit Shemesh Family Causes Concerns about Child Marriages

One incident about Lev Tahor that came to limelight in 2011, concerned underage girls being sent from Israel to marry within the community in Canada.

  • The girls, aged 15 and 13, were forcibly detained by Canadian immigration officials in Montreal and returned to Israel apparently under order of an Israeli court. The girls’ great-uncle had petitioned for the writ out of concern that the girls would be harmed by the group in Canada, that their property would be taken, and that they could be forced to wed male members of the Lev Tahor sect.  [Source]
  • The parents of the girls decided the community in Canada would be suitable and sent them from Beit Shemesh to N. America, hoping to have them there in the Lev Tahor village in time for Rosh Hashanah. The family members who petitioned the court feared that in the cult’s community, the Lev Tahor village, they would be compelled to get married in line with the groups hashkofa towards keeping them pure. [Source]
  • The episode has raised questions about the legitimacy of Lev Tahor, and an Israeli court will rule next week on whether membership of the sect should be made illegal for all Israelis. If this happens, one implication is that social welfare agencies will be empowered to take away member parents’ children. [Source]
  • The girls in the midst of the firestorm, ages 13 and 15, are the daughters of two secular Israelis who became ultra-Orthodox and joined the sect. Their grandmother and great-uncle, concerned for the girls’ well-being, petitioned the court after the girls’ parents put them on a plane headed to Canada, to an isolated village outside Montreal that comprises 45 families from Lev Tahor. [Source]
  • The spiritual leader of Lev Tahor in Canada, Rabbi Shlomo Elbarnes, denied using coercion. “Use force? We want everybody who is not 100 percent happy … to leave us,” Elbarnes told the Globe and Mail. [Source]
  • Bringing the Beit Shemesh sisters back to Israel was an international operation, involving the foreign ministry and Interpol. The goal of the operation was to stop the pair from entering the ultra-Orthodox community in Canada. [Source]

Israel Investigates Lev Tahor

It was after this incident that the Israeli government began renewed investigations into the sect over alleged kidnappings and other child welfare issues. Some of the parents in the sect were given injunctions to prohibit them leaving the country or sending their children to Canada as investigations were underway

  • …an Israeli court is expected to decide next week whether it is legal to belong to the extreme ultra-Orthodox group Lev Tahor, known as “the Taliban sect.” A decision reached this week by a family court in Rishon Letzion indicates that a ruling on Lev Tahor’s legality is imminent. [Source]

In 2012, Rabbi Helbrans was again in the news in New York, discussing his 1990s kidnapping case.

Also in 2012, Israeli newspapers, Haaretz Daily and Israel HaYom, began investigating the sect and published exposés on Lev Tahor, its leaders, practice, strict kosher rules and the welfare of its members. Israel HaYom discussed the origins of the sect, various run-ins with the law and other accusations and concerns, whereas Haaretz Daily embedded a reporte in the culture and report on what he saw and heard. The blog, “Shearim”, discusses the exposés from an Orthodox perspective. Israeli Channel 10 also investigated Lev Tahor after several allegations about the sect had been made and much concern was expressed by individuals who have family members in the sect.

  • Haaretz spent five days with the controversial ‘Lev Tahor’ Haredi community in Canada to uncover the truth about the sect and its charismatic head, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans. Part one of a two-part series. [Source]
  • In the second part of Haaretz’s investigation into the Lev Tahor Hasidic cult in Canada, Shay Fogelman speaks to the group’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, about his prison time in America and the community’s attitude to underage marriage, to a young man who managed to leave the religious extremists and to a mother who defend their hard-line way of life. [Source]
  • The very existence of the radical community, aloof and controversial is not new: since the early 90s been linked to various cases, including those who came to the Israeli police, the FBI and courts in Israel and the United States [Source]
  • “In general, there were a lot of threats and penalties. There was an atmosphere of abstract fear. When my sister talked to a step-brother, a son of our mother’s new husband, my Rebbe punished her with the prohibition to leave the house for several days. . .” [Source]
  • Helbrans who is, according to Israel Hayom without any SMICHA from the Israeli Rabbanut (Chief Rabbinate) wrote his own books and this is what he is teaching his followers. Still in Jerusalem, he studied with the Toldot Aharon for a while and afterwards in Satmar but insisted on founding his own group.[Source]
  • ‘Lev Tahor’ congregation, a radical sect located in Canada, was reviewed last night (Wednesday) extensively in ‘True side’ a broadcast program by Amnon Levi on Channel 10 [Source]
  • Channel 10 accompanied Aryeh Leber, a cult refugee, who is operating a search campaign for his mother [Source] – Videos in Hebrew
  • Shay Fogelman put up an exposé on Rabbi Helbrans in two parts at T.O.T. Private Consulting Services blog. Part one and part two are quite lengthy on the history and practices of the sect.

Shortly after, Jewish paper Vos iz Neias, The Jewish Voice and Behadrey Haredim also carried stories on the sect in the fall of 2012.The articles discuss the Channel 10 exposé, among other information. Due to the time limits of the show, not everything was able to be covered, so Behadrey Haredim did their best to share everything else that they felt was pertinent to the case by interviewing a current member about the accusations made about Lev Tahor.

Beit Shemesh Family in the News a Second Time

Some of the members of Lev Tahor were involved in trying to illegally leave Israel with their children to join the sect in Canada in the summer of 2013 after court injunctions that halted their movement out of the country. They were caught in Jordan by Jordanian police and later returned to Israel for trial. This was the same family implicated in the 2011 incidence involving Canadian immigration returning two underage girls to Israel after the holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

  • The ultra-Orthodox Jewish family, consisting of parents and six children, crossed the border with Jordan, on Wednesday night and was arrested by the Jordanian authorities. [Source]
  • Parents of six children trapped in Jordan when they tried to join the Lev Tahor cult were brought before a judge, and refused to be represented by attorney [Source]
  • This family, along with many of the members of Lev Tahor are balei teshuva, which is to say newly orthodox.  They previously hit the headlines in 2011 in Israel when they attempted to send two of their daughters, then aged 13 and 15, to Canada, only to have them forcefully returned to Israel by the Canadian authorities. [Source]
  • According to Channel 10, initial questioning revealed that — contrary to early speculation that they had accidentally wandered into the neighboring country while hiking — the family had intentionally entered Jordan in an attempt to circumvent a court order, sought by the father’s family, forbidding them to leave Israel. [Source]
  • Orit Cohen, sister of the father who was arrested in Jordan in an exclusive interview to B’Chadrei Charedim • “My brother was caught into the cult “Lev Tahor” • “the haredi public must condemn the cult and leader Shlomo Halbernetz [Source]
  • The Beit Shemesh family that tried to join him is led by parents who were not raised in the religious Jewish community, but became religious in adulthood. They joined the hareidi-religious community in Beit Shemesh and began raising six children there. [Source]

Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans’ Wife Ejected from the Community

In Spring of 2013, The Rabbi’s wife, Malka Helbranz was apparently ejected from the community. She has since returned to Israel. There isn’t much news coverage on this issue in English at this time.

  • Malka Halbernetz is not the only one who abandoned the sect. So far there were several cases of families or family members, after receiving assistance from external sources left the cult. The Center for Victims of Cults was established seven years ago and so far has handled over 10 center cases of families and individuals who abandoned Lev Tahor. [Source]
  • “She is staying at the home of one of the women in her family in the north of the country,” says a source involved in the details of her escape. The source added that the community in Canada are pleased and happy that she left, “They never liked the fact that the leader’s wife denies any of their methods.” [Source]
  • The trouble for the rabbi’s wife began after she voiced opposition to the rampant child abuse going on in the community. “The main reason for my sufferings is the fact that I dared to voice opposition to the punishments that are being used in the village,” Malka said. [Source]

I also found that one of the Rabbi’s sons has also since returned to Israel, and has been ostracised from the group. He is, however, still active in the religious community.

  • A son of the group’s leader fled the group and moved back to Israel. According to Nachman Helbrans, this brother was in a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife, left for Israel, and then claimed his children were being neglected. Several children from that family were removed and sent to live in Israel with the father. [Source]
  • On Shabbos afternoon, about 50 protesters came to the corner of Devora Haneviah Street in the capital, where – as every week – they protested against the desecration of Shabbos in the city. At about 16:30 a garbage truck passed by that came to clear the garbage can which is situated nearby. The wrath of the protesters skyrocketed. Halbernetz’s son, who was among the group of protesters, lay on the road behind the truck to block it and stop the continued activity on Shabbos. [Source]

2013 Homeschooling Case in Quebec

Sometime in 2013, investigations began in Quebec on the Rebbe’s son Nachman and the Lev Tahor community. There were concerns about the children’s education and welfare, match-making efforts and young ages of girls given in marriage; as well as allegations of abuse and mind control.

Later on, investigations into the conditions in the Lev Tahor community had been found that the children were not being instructed in English and French, but rather in Hebrew and Yiddish and would be unable to call for assistance should anything happen to their parents or another member of the sect in an emergency. It was also found that the girls were not getting the same standard of education as the boys, and that the children were unable to do basic mathematics.

Due to the investigation in Quebec, after discussing the issue with a few homeschool advocacy groups (including the HSLDA), the Rebbe and his son moved the community to a town in Ontario, which then involved both Quebec and Ontario’s Child Welfare Services and court systems. From what I understand, Canada is also trying to get information on the group from the United States and Israel.

  • About 40 ultra-Orthodox Jewish families living in the Laurentians, in the closed community of Lev Tahor, disappeared this week without warning — leaving youth protection officials in Quebec worried about the safety of 120 children.[Source]
  • About 40 families belonging to the cult, tried yesterday (Tuesday) to flee the country, having realized that the welfare authorities intend to intervene in raising their children. [Source]
  • Under the Monday morning moonlight, at about 1 a.m., 40 families numbering nearly 200 people boarded a convoy of buses to flee their homes and what they considered the imminent threat of Quebec’s child protection authorities.[Source]
  • “Youth protection services reiterates its will to collaborate, in any way, to assure the safety and well-being of the children in the community,” said a written statement issued by Quebec’s youth protection department Monday evening.[Source]
  • A hearing has been scheduled at the St. Jérôme courthouse Wednesday. [Source]
  • “The reason for departure of the community,” explains its people in the notice, “decrees on education in Quebec. Other communities in Quebec and abroad (eg Antwerp) are struggling against the decrees in court, but the situation with Lev Tahor, because it is a small community is much more serious.” [Source]
  • Israeli media have previously reported that the ultra-orthodox Lev Tahor group engages in forced marriages. Child protection services north of Montreal had issued a summons for Lev Tahor members to appear before youth court on Thursday on allegations of child abuse. [Source]
  • Chatham-Kent Children’s Services says the group will not get any special treatment. “If there are issues to be followed up on we would conduct our business the same way we would with any other situation that presented itself to a child protection agency,” says Interim Executive Director Stephen Doig. [Source]
  • “The nature of this community is to go back to the old traditions,” he said. “Freedom of religion is important to us. This is something that in Ontario that is much more respected.” Jewish human rights organization B’nai Brith Canada expressed its concern for the children living in the Lev Tahor community. [Source]
  • Authorities in Ontario say they are aware of the group’s presence in the region. The local police force in the Chatham-Kent area has given a similar statement [Source]
  • Nachman Helbrans, a member of the Jewish fundamentalist group, Lev Tahor, talks about the groups move from Quebec to Ontario amid a child neglect investigation, while at a motel in Windsor Ont., where they are temporarily staying. Nachman is heard saying that the Homeschool Legal Defense Association and other homeschooling associations suggested they leave Quebec. [Video Source]
  • CTV News Video, 28.11.2013
  • “They force us to learn things that are against our religion, such as evolution,” Goldman said, adding that he believes the authorities planned to take the children and place them in a foster home. [Source]
  • “The education system in Quebec does not comply with our views because in Quebec it says each child should receive equivalent education, otherwise, they will call youth protection services,” said Helbrans. “We cannot just accept the curriculum, including evolution and many other issues we cannot teach our children.” [Source]
  • Uriel Goldman, spokesperson for the fundamentalist Jewish group Lev Tahor speaks in in Chatham, Ontario on November 28, 2013. [Video Source]
  • Despite being a convicted felon, he was granted refugee status in 2004, after he claimed to be in danger if he was sent back to Israel because of his extreme anti-Zionist views. [Source]
  • Ontario reportedly has liberal requirements for faith-based home schooling. [Source]
  • Nachman Helbrans, a spokesman for the sect, has said they want to educate their children according to their own religious beliefs and fled to Ontario to avoid Quebec’s education system, which “doesn’t give freedom of religion as most people understand it.”[Source]
  • “We’ve received complaints from former members of the sect, about abuse allegations, which we referred to (Youth Protection Services) in the Laurentians,” Ouellette said. [Source]
  • “For sure we are worried by the fact that they fled Quebec to go to Ontario,” Denis Baraby, director of youth protection for the Laurentians region, said Friday. His workers have been actively involved in the community since August, trying to help children suffering from poor hygiene, inadequate housing and unsatisfactory schooling. [Source]
  • “There were health issues, hygiene issues, the houses were dirty with garbage everywhere,” Baraby said in an interview. Education was another issue, Baraby said. The children were home schooled and “not even capable of doing basic math.”[Source]
  • In a radio interview with Radio-Canada on Tuesday, Quebec Education Minister Marie Malavoy called the situation “sensitive” and one that must be taken seriously. The Education Department had negotiated with the community over the children’s schooling, which is largely religious teaching in an environment without proper permits.[Source]
  • According to Canadian media, one of the charges against the families was that their children – who are homeschooled – did not know basic math, and in several cases, could not speak either English or French. [Source]
  • He said boys learn the basic Quebec curriculum, including history and math, but most of it is in Yiddish. He said the group has even taken the necessary steps to translate textbooks into Yiddish. Girls are taught basic home economic skills, like sewing and cooking. [Source]
  • “The schooling matter is one issue but not the only. There were important shortcomings, serious negligence,” said Denis Baraby, director of Centre jeunesse des Laurentides. “Their children, even at age 10 or 12, wouldn’t be even be able in an emergency to ask for help.” [Source]
  • He said his group recently spent thousands of dollars on textbooks for such things as math and history. He said most adults in his group speak English or French, though he acknowledges that the children speak only Yiddish or Hebrew. He said the Quebec government demanded that Lev Tahor teach things members disagree with, such as evolution and homosexuality. [Source]
  • Quebec youth protection services told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that there are concerns that the children were neglected. The children reportedly were forced to live in the homes of families other than their own for punishments. [Source]
  • A youth court judge in Quebec has ordered that 14 children from the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor be placed temporarily in foster care, undergo medical exams and receive psychological support.The order also compels the children’s parents to turn over their passports. [Source]
  • Quebec Judge Pierre Hamel said in his ruling that he believed the children were at “serious risk of harm” after hearing testimony from three child-protection workers as well as a former member of the sect, who related what he endured while living in the community and how he ultimately fled the group.[Source]
  • A number of the children are at or near the age of 13, which Shlomo Helbrans has said is the ideal age for marriage under his interpretation of Jewish law. The eldest of the children targeted by the court order—a married 16-year-old — is the mother of the infant child that has been ordered into foster care.[Source]
  • Two families from an extremist haredi Orthodox sect will comply with a court’s order to return to Quebec for a hearing on allegations of child neglect, a sect leader said. Nachman Helbrans, son of the community’s leader, Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans, said the families will meet with child protection officials on Wednesday, the Toronto Star reported Monday. [Source]
  • Judge Pierre Hamel issued the ruling Wednesday night, ordering the children be removed from the community and placed in foster homes immediately, for at least 30 days. [Source]
  • The emergency order Wednesday from Quebec Youth Court Judge Pierre Hamel said the children should be placed in foster care for 30 days and receive medical and psychological evaluations. They are to have no contact with Shlomo Helbrans, or other Lev Tahor members, and contact with the families is to be tightly controlled by child protection investigators in Quebec. [Source]
  • Yoil Weingarten, a member of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect Lev Tahor, defends his community and accuses Israel of being behind the persecution of his community. [Video included at Source]
  • Oded Twik has urged the Canadian authorities to remove all 137 children from the community. Dozens of family members and supporters attended a demonstration outside the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv on October 14. Many family members have not communicated with their relatives for eight years. [Source]

Due to the investigations in Canada, Israel has ramped up their efforts in hearing more information about the sect and deciding what to do, in a spirit of cooperation with American and Canadian authorities. Special hearings are now underway in the Knesset. [Israeli Parliament]

  • Hitting children with iron bars, denial of food, taking psychiatric pills by coercion and total disconnection from the family in Israel. These are some of the testimonies heard today (Tuesday) by the Committee in the Knesset, about the Israeli families at the ‘Lev Tahor’ community in Canada. [Source]
  • On Tuesday the Knesset’s Committee on the Rights of the Child held a hearing on Lev Tahor, and families of the cult members as well as MKs slammed the State Prosecutor’s Office for dragging its feet on the case. [Source]
  • In the meeting representatives of the Ministry of Internal Security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Justice Ministry, the Welfare Ministry, the ”Lev Ahim” Organization, INTERPOL, the National Council for the Child and the victims of the cult will be present. [Source]
  • Hitting children with iron bars, denial of food, taking psychiatric pills by coercion and total disconnection from the family in Israel. These are some of the testimonies heard today (Tuesday) by the Committee in the Knesset, about the Israeli families at the ‘Lev Tahor’ community in Canada. It was also told about achieving compliance by constant pain such as wearing shoes smaller than one’s shoe size, forced divorce and marriage.. [Source]

I have put all of this information together in hopes that it will help anyone who is currently investigating this issue to find out more about Lev Tahor, the rabbi and his family, issues with the police and immigration authorities and the homeschool community.

It is, very often, difficult to wade through the sea of information and get to the heart of the issue, and it is my hope that this post will enable you to do just that. Keep in mind that any articles posted in Hebrew can be run through Google Translate. It is not the best, but you will understand the basics of what is being said.

German Churches Up in Arms over Abuse Study

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on November 25, 2013.

German Bible. Photo by J. Stahl.
German Bible. Photo by J. Stahl.

In following the story of the Twelve Tribes, I had become aware of a study on religious families and their children, tendencies towards abuse and such being carried on within Germany. I had heard about the study. But not being registered to either the Evangelical, Free Evangelical or local Catholic Churches, we were not polled for the study, though we are a religious household.

I am somewhat curious as to what was in the survey itself. It seems rather revealing that the Free Evangelical churches are showing many of their members do, in fact, regularly beat their children.

For those who do not know, this is illegal to do in Germany.

One of my many concerns within the homeschooling movement and the greater German church community (especially after coming out of this environment in the United States) is to get away from the punitive and corporal punishment mindset, seeing children as sinful inconveniences unless they’re perfectly behaving like little adults and back to what the Bible actually teaches; namely love and parenting being a job of parent and child to do together.

My second major concern was finding on Amazon.de teachers such as: Michael and Debi Pearl (To Train Up A Child is now removed, but No Greater Joy volume 1volume 2 and volume 3 remain); Ted Tripp has three books represented (this remains, and as does this also); James Dobson‘s harmful books; Bruce Ray’s Withhold Not Correction (also a Spanish edition!); Gary Ezzo‘s books; Elyse Fitzpatrick’sTim Kimmel‘s (there is a second book here), and a couple other religious punitive-based child training manuals can be found.

Finding those books means that there is a market here in Germany. That, as someone who was raised so punitively, terrifies me. It terrifies me because this means there are other children being raised this way, who will not know a day in their lives where just being children is not a sin.

I had heard that some time back, that one branch of the Evangelical Churches in Germany had made statements against corporal punishment and other punitive discipline methods, which created some shock when I saw the results of this study: 45,000 students from 9th grade forward and about 11,500 adults were polled (so over 50,000 individuals) and they found that one in six very religious children are smacked by their parents or given other punitive disciplinary methods against their undesirable behavior(s).

In the Catholic and other Protestant students, the rate is considerably lower, if not rare.

The results of the study were published here, and does run through Google Translate in a mostly discernible manner into English. The name of the study is “Christian religiosity and parental violence. A comparison of familial socialization of Catholics, Protestants and Members of the Free Churches.”

More on the study and why everyone’s up in arms:

With parents from free churches that have no academic training, but declared themselves as “religious” or “very religious”, the trend is even more pronounced: More than a quarter of the surveyed children from these families has at some juncture suffered massive violence in their household. The study’s authors also provide a possible explanation: There is “a Christian tradition of parental driven beating as discipline for children.”
NDR – Freikirchen wehren sich gegen Gewaltstudie

The findings in the survey are quite shocking to me. I’ll post some of the figures below for those of you who don’t have time to sift through a pages long PDF:

image1
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image2
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image3
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf
image4
Source: http://www.ndr.de/regional/niedersachsen/freikirchen109.pdf

Now, these are in order, but without all of the information behind what makes this all so shocking. What I want to point out is that this is consistent with studies done in the United StatesCanada, the United KingdomAustralia and elsewhere as it pertains to parental violence towards children and its affects on the children involved. One study paper that someone had pointed me towards a couple of years ago was “The Long Shadow: Adult Survivors of Child Abuse.” Psychology Today has several articles about this phenomenon as well. One that stands out in my memory is “The Lingering Trauma of Child Abuse.” (Note: My list is not exhaustive, but just to give an example of what one will find on the subject.)

Articles referenced within this NDR article and the PDF are as follows:

…in the late 90s the German Parliament had established a Study Commission to look at so-called sects and mind-control groups. The study found that in fundamentalist Christian communities there is a widespread “…significant advocacy for physical punishment…”
NDR – Kinder schlagen im Namen Gottes 21.12.2011

NDR.de: Critics say the national church must be clear in distancing themselves from such fundamentalist positions. Shouldn’t you make it clearer that you do not agree with such  positions [about corporal punishment being biblical]?

[Kerstin] Gäfgen-Track: In the case of these parenting books and this position, I can speak for the national church, because we draw a very clear line of demarcation. We have nothing to do with such, so we want to continuing having nothing to do with such. We wish to strongly condemn such counselors. [Ted Tripp and so on]  
NDR:  “Wir verurteilen das aufs Schärfste” 21.12.2011

…as they contradict the law and [Christian Beliefs], there is a secret culture of spanking among devout Christians… Parents who follow these beliefs belong to denominations such as those [found in the] Evangelical Free Churches and the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are apt to taking the Bible literally, and consider doubts about the Word of God as whisperings of Satan.
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Liebe geht durch den Stock 30.9.2010

…It is striking that the violence of evangelical parents seem to have a lasting effect on their young. With [such] systemic beatings, it may be that parents seek to break the will of children so that they would assimilate the beliefs of adults; warn psychologists..
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Schläge im Namen des Herrn  17.10.2010

There was a study published in April of this year (2013) by infoSekte in Zürich, Switzerland entitled “Erziehungsverständnisse in evangelikalen Erziehungsratgebern und -kursen.” (Yes, this too can be run through Google Translate!) It is 61 pages long, detailing “Problematic trends such as corporal punishment or psychological violence arising in connection with certain child rearing methods … [and] possible effects of certain parenting styles.” Also explained in the document is how Switzerland signed and ratified the UN Rights of the Child in 1997; and such parenting styles are incompatible with such an agreement.

The UN Rights of the Child is the very same document that many Christians in the United States have pushed for a refusal to ratify since the 1990s.

(The US has signed, but not ratified as of this date in time.) Also something to note; Michael Farris has really pushed home-schoolers into a frenzy over it as taking away parental rights to discipline punitively and claim it is “biblical.” (For the uninitiated, Michael Farris is the head of Patrick Henry College, The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and loosely affiliated with Schuzh, which defends many German home-schoolers in court. You may have recently seen Michael Farris in the news pushing against the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

If you get a chance, please do read this study. I understand that 61 pages is awfully long, but it is worth it. There is a serious problem when familial violence becomes an accepted piece of one’s culture and religious upbringing — when we normalize it to the extent that no one is shocked at all.

Issues brought forward by the Twelve Tribes in Germany are not at all shocking in many parts of the United States because such methods have become so normalized.

So many people believe it is the right thing to do. Anything contrary is “unbiblical.” That is not to say that there are not Christians, like myself, who believe that corporal punishment is actually what is contrary to the Bible.

If one wishes to claim that the Bible teaches beating their children, I would have to recommend you go back and actually investigate those claims for yourself as this is not understood to be the case within the Jewish community; and from whom we get the proof-text “spanking”/”smacking” passages from. It is a purely Christian phenomenon that came into place some time in the middle ages, as far as I can find at this juncture. Before, corporal discipline was for adult members of the faith who wished to submit themselves to flagellation.

One book that discusses this phenomenon and suggests a better way is Samuel Martin’s Book, Thy Rod And Thy Staff They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy.  I have others, should you wish to peruse them, but they are not free.

There are wonderful articles referenced here in an older post on my blog and I also have a ton on my Pinterest parenting boards, should you have an account there.

If you don’t know about the Pearls and their harmful teaching, I’d be happy to throw you more than the recommendation to read Hermana Linda’s Blog and this review of the Pearl’s ministry.  I would also like to mention that any court willing to speak with me personally is more than welcome to discuss punitive upbringing, homeschooling, corporal punishment proof-texts, etc.  I’m not an expert, but I’ve lived through it and am working to change things with my children and advocating for others to the best of my abilities.

Update: Michael and Debi Pearl and critiques about them and information on the Hana Williams case were on CNN last night via Anderson Cooper. If you still doubt the methods this couple advocates, look no further.

I would like to leave with a closing message by Robbyn Peters. It is “Violence: A Family Tradition.” For those who are still unconvinced, I ask that you please consider Robbyn’s words and investigate for yourself.

Update on the Twelve Tribes in Germany: Child Abduction Charges

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Background on the Twelve Tribes in Germany situation:

The Twelve Tribes, Child Abuse, and Michael Farris

How American Homeschoolers Enabled and Funded German Child Abuse: The Real Story Behind the Religious Right and the Twelve Tribes

Pray For All the Children of the Twelve Tribes, Part One

Pray For All the Children of the Twelve Tribes, Part Two

*****

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on November 5, 2013.

If you’ve not been following along on my blog, you will want to read hereherehere and here before continuing on.

Here is the latest news on the Twelve Tribes group. Two girls that were in foster care have been missing for a few weeks. They have now been figured to be with their parents and in Switzerland. Below are the news stories I can gather as swiftly as possible. (HA note: these are translated with Google Translate, so the translations are a little rough.)

RTL – Spanking sect 12 Tribes: Two children kidnapped?

Merea K. and her sister Eva — For almost two weeks, the two girls are untraceable. Of their daily school in Ansbach, the two have not come to her foster parents home. The youth welfare office is on the case. Apparently, the 9 and 17 year-old girls are in the clutches of a cult that brutally punishes their children.

Donau-Ries Aktuell- Twelve Tribes: Two children abducted abroad?

The incident occurred about three weeks ago. The two children were placed in a foster family in Dombühl and come from the community in Wörnitz. On the day of their disappearance, the girls went to school like every other day. However, they did not come back. Their foster parents reported the case to the authorities in Ansbach.

Spiegel – Christian sect “Twelve Tribes”: Two children disappeared from foster care

Whether the children returned voluntarily to their parents or whether they were taken from their parents against their will, could not say a spokeswoman for the district office. This is the subject of ongoing investigation.

BR – “Twelve Tribes” disappeared children with their grandmother

 According to current knowledge of the prosecution Ansbach, “the two girls went voluntarily to Switzerland. Their parents also plan to stay in Switzerland.” Chief Public Prosecutor Gerhard Karl told Bayerischer Rundfunk on request. How the children moved to Switzerland, is currently unclear, according to the authorities.

SWR –  Religious community “Twelve Tribes” Missing children are at grandmother’s

The members of the sect who live on the estate Klosterzimmern in Deiningen is accused of beating their children for religious reasons. Therefore, the authorities concerned parents deprived of the custody .Mid-September, the girls were placed with a foster family… As the children moved to Switzerland, was unclear, said a spokesman for the district office. The Authority has filed a complaint against persons unknown for child abduction. In addition, they submitted a request for return of the children. However, since the girls had dual citizenship, this is difficult.

Pirates, Bible Abiders, and The German Tea Party: What Germans Think

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Pirates, Bible Abiders, and The German Tea Party: What Germans Think, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 28, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling Cases – What do Germans think? What sort of political lobbying is going on?”

One of the things I get asked quite frequently is “What do those living in Germany think about parents who want to teach their children at home?” Also, “Is there as much hype in Germany about these cases like what we’re hearing in the US?” which is quickly followed by, “Is it just not in your news?

I’d like to try to share some of what I have seen and heard in response to those questions.

Germany has a completely different tradition:  compulsory education – which was introduced in Prussia almost 300 years ago, and applies to all children from the age of six forwards. Parents who disagree with the curriculum, may establish a private school if need be, as the state requirements for this are quite strict. Those who choose to teach their children at home do so illegally.
Spiegel:  Homeschooling: Bibel-Lehre statt Sexualkunde
[Homeschooling: Teaching the Bible instead of sex education]

 The German laws mandating public-school attendance date back to Germany’s first experiment with democracy in 1919, according to Hans Bruegelmann, an education professor at the University of Siegen.
…previously private education was only available to the elite, and that the public-school mandate was a clear political choice.
“…school is an embryonic democracy and will help to integrate children and young people coming from different backgrounds into the democratic culture,” …
US judge grants German homeschooling family asylum

 “At home, children only experience one segment of society, where they live, learn and grow up. They don’t get to see the broad spectrum, which our young citizens need to be exposed to,” said Bunselmeister-Lohr.
 More Families in Rural Areas Opting for Illegal Home Schooling

 I do not think that Germany should allow homeschooling. We already have a huge problem here with immigrants …especially women and children — being kept at home by their male relatives due to religion and cultures that they have brought with them and therefore those women and children cannot speak basic German and know virtually nothing of their rights or obligations in Germany.
Anti-Americanism, Homeschooling and Happy Housewives

 We are a family from Germany now living in New Zealand because we had to leave our country because of homeschooling…
In Germany we felt …persecuted …as the German government is not interested in Christian education anymore. We did homeschooling in Germany in a bilingual way so the children had no difficulties to move into an English speaking country. They passed the tests at a homeschool cooperated school very well, as well as all other native speakers. ..here in New Zealand …children are far more accepted in the society than in Germany. — Laurien Family, NZ
Readers’ Mixed Feelings About Germany’s Homeschooling Ban

 Parents have to take care that their children attend classes. If the parents fail to push their children to participate in the lessons,they are actively violating compulsory education laws…
Sohn schwänzte Schule: Mutter muss sechs Monate ins Gefängnis
[Son skipped school: mother has six months in jail]

Home-schooling fuels a heated debate in Germany. Families in favour of home-schooling say they are persecuted without cause. Critics point to the extreme religious views of some home-schoolers and question the safety of allowing children be educated without state oversight.
‘We have the power to take your kids away’

 “What I could imagine is for homeschooling to be allowed within narrow parameters, with students being frequently tested by authorities,” said Heinz-Peter Meidinger, head of the Deutsche Philologenverband, an association of German high school teachers. “What I would not welcome is when such students are the rule and not the exception.”
German Parents Wanting to Homeschool Turn to EU Court

Patrick Meinhardt, education speaker for the FDP notes, “I don’t want to start writing up a lot of new rules for homeschooling. I imagine that as long as some state control over the curriculum and teacher training remains, home schooling should not be restricted any more.”
In short, the FDP advocates using the laws on the books for private schools, in order to finally open the door to home-schooling in Germany. The other German parties, however, generally oppose homeschooling more out of…fear that the teachers and their materials will be substandard…
HOMESCHOOLING: VERBOTEN IN GERMANY STILL IN 2009

 Patrick Meinhardt also said: “Parents have a fundamental interest to be able to decide on what sort of education their children have.”
Erstmals Globale Konferenz zur Bildungsfreiheit – Homeschooling bald erlaubt? 
[First Global Conference on Freedom of Education –  Will Homeschooling be allowed soon?]

At the meeting talk education experts and practitioners of homeschooling from many countries, including the USA, Russia and Finland. Even the FDP Bundestag member Patrick Meinhardt , educational policy spokesman of the FDP will hold a keynote speech.
Berliner Konferenz zur Bildungsfreiheit 
[Berlin Conference on the Freedom of Education]

Perhaps the most significant formal accomplishment of the summit was the signing of the Berlin Declaration by home education leaders and human rights advocates from all over the planet.
The document outlines various human rights conventions and treaties protecting the fundamental right to choose home education while calling on rogue governments to end persecution and repression.
WND EXCLUSIVE Parents shed tears over homeschool-crackdown horrors

As far as political lobbying goes; it looks like there was some hope when the Piraten Partei (Pirate Party) was founded, that they would help legalize home education. This was voted down by 76% vote in the party. (source 1, source 2)

So, Hausunterricht.org (HA note: run by Jörg Großelümern, board member of HSLDA-affiliate Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit) put together a note for German home educators to say who was the best choice to vote for just prior to the elections. The basics were that none of the available ruling parties with majority in Parliament could be worked with for various reasons.

Instead, we’re referred to vote for the PBC.

(Which, actually, I’d never heard of. I feel slightly embarrassed by this fact.) (HA note: PBC is “The Party of Bible-abiding Christians,” or “Partei Bibeltreuer Christen, PBC),” a conservative evangelical minor political party in Germany.) They flat out said the CDU/CSU (“Christian Democratic Union of Germany” / “Christian Social Union of Bavaria”) were not workable.

For what it is worth, I didn’t even see the PBC being given a listing when votes were counted. Maybe they were listed under the all-encompassing “other”. I’m not certain.

A German home-schooling page on Facebook went another direction, suggesting the Alternative für Deutschland party.

Below is a screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year’s election:

“Tomorrow is election day in Germany. The Alternative für Deutschland is the only party we can trust to give us any hope of a legal decision on homeschooling in Germany. In terms of training and education, we can expect them not to mindlessly parrot the sick collectivist consensus (on the legality of home education).”

A screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year's election.
A screen capture from a German pro-homeschooling group, pushing for its supporters to vote for the AfD — Alternative für Deutschland — in this year’s election.

Now, I had been following some of the news on the AfD.

I had noted that they are quite similar to The Tea Party in the US, with the exception of being an actual political party, rather than a movement.

Apparently, I was not the only one who noticed this, as it was being discussed in almost every German newspaper that I perused. There were some other things that stood out to me, that caused the recommendation above, to cause me to have quite raised eyebrows and wide eyes. My hope was that they would not make the 5% threshold to get into Parliament, not because of their policy towards home-schooling, but due to their other political aims and leanings.

(For those who absolutely must know, I cannot vote in any of these elections. I can only express much interest and research as much as I like about these things.)

Its openly anti-euro message has prompted a debate in the governing Christian Democrat (CDU) party, for example – is silence the best policy or should the party’s pro-Deutschmark message be addressed head-on?
…The AfD usually gets 2-3% support in the opinion polls. If it can raise that to 5%, under the electoral laws of Germany it gets seats in the Bundestag (lower house), and in a coalition system, small parties then have power.
Germany’s new anti-euro AfD party causes political stir

Who reduces the AFD on their right-wing populism ignores the real ideological threat posed by that party…

The paleolibertarian calls for the submission of all areas of life to the market ideology. Social authorities such as the family and the church are there to protect the individual from the state, which is the enemy of paleolibertarian. The EU opposition of the AFD fits seamlessly into the philosophical ideas of fundamentalists. Anyone who wants to reduce the state to a minimum, of course, also rejects any form of a strong central government.
 Die Gefahr der neuen Partei ist nicht der Rechtspopulismus – Die deutsche Tea Party
[The danger of the new party is not the right-wing populism – The German Tea Party]

 Behind the scenes, a power struggle is raging between a liberal wing, to which many former members are from the FDP, and a conservative part, where the boundaries are quite fluently leaning towards right-wing populism. Questions over of whether gay marriage is right, whether the nuclear power making a comeback or whether individuals should have a right to “homeschooling.”..
Alternative für Deutschland – Wie die Wähler die AfD zur Protestpartei machen [The Alternative for Germany – How the voters make the AFD into protest party]

For those who do not know, there is a Fünf-Prozent-Hürde, or a Five Percent Hurdle that each political party must reach to enter into the German Parliament.  The AfD will have participated for the first time in federal elections this September. Emotions were high and everyone wondered how much wind would be in their sails. In the end, they won 4.7% of the vote. This doesn’t mean much in the way of Parliament, but it can mean something for some local elections.

I don’t really understand all of this, since my husband is extremely pacifist and isn’t big on history, politics or political parties. I haven’t seen enough of our friends or extended family to discuss politics in ages, and the last political book I have about German political parties (in English, mind you) was published in 2003. We have a few new parties since then and some of that information is quite outdated.

What I do know, though, from my experience in the United States, is that you always follow where people are saying to vote and examine that as far as you can to better understand where they fall politically and what sorts of other beliefs they hold.

All of this really leaves me scratching my head.

The more I find out about the people willing to suffer heavy fines or jail and what political parties they’re pushing, the more I feel like I’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole.

The Mutterpass: Motherhood, Healthcare, and Homeschooling in Germany

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The Mutterpass: Motherhood, Healthcare, and Homeschooling in Germany, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 26, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling Cases – Things to consider.”

One of the arguments that I keep hearing from family, friends and acquaintances in North America and other English-speaking areas of the world about home-schooling in Germany is: “Homeschooling should not be regulated! Parents have the right to educate their children as they see fit! Should officials be doing welfare checks on babies and toddlers to make sure that they are well cared for?”

I usually stammer a bit and try to explain that things are just so different here with German culture vs. American or Canadian culture. With the healthcare system that we have, women who are prenatal and postnatal are well cared for and children are seen as an investment and something that the entire “village” should protect.

It all starts when you get your first positive pregnancy test.

No, really. It does.

First, you get your pregnancy test at the apothecary. It will not be available elsewhere, because that is strictly behind-the-counter stuff. You’ll be advised by the nice people at the apothecary that if it is positive, to contact your OB/GYN, and if you don’t have one, to contact your Hausarzt (The General Practitioner that you’re seeing), and get a referral to a good OB/GYN.

You pop out the pregnancy test and without a doubt, it’s positive. You might take another, but it too is positive. “Well, we’re having a baby!”  Or, whatever variation of that which was said in your home.

The next step is simple.

You contact your Hausarzt for the referral to an OB/GYN, or, you contact your friends really quickly and find out who is the best in the area. Then, you call and say “(Appropriate time of day greeting here)! My name is ________ from __________; and I just took a pregnancy test and it’s positive. Last missed period was on ________.” And before you can say “OK,” they’ve already hauled out the appointment book and are squeezing you in right away.

When the appointment date arrives, you will be given the almighty “Mutterpass“.

This is a mother’s passport and will remain with you your entire pregnancy and through to your postnatal checkups. This is your copy of your medical records. All appointments will be logged here, your test results on any blood tests or other tests that need to be done, how you’re measuring, and all ultrasounds.

 The Mutterpass has information that contains all relevant data on the health of the mother, such as blood group; iron content in the blood, test results for hereditary – and infectious diseases (hepatitis B , HIV , rubella); the condition of the child — such as position, weight, size, etc. up to the birth;  and the expected date of birth. Even after the child is born, some important facts about the child, and the postpartum follow-up of the mother, (6-8 weeks after birth), is recorded in the Mutterpass. In an emergency, Doctors have all this information and are able to respond faster.
Wikipedia

The mother passport has 16 pages. Each (double) page deals with various aspects of the health of mother and child.
Familienplannung.de [Tons of information here, including what is found in the Mutterpass] See also: Rund ums Baby and this PDF, which have example pages of what is in the Mutterpass.

Due to the length of my post today, I did want to share TheLocal.de‘s wonderful series “Motherhood in the Fatherland”. I know that sharing these posts seems like a lot of reading. I tend to over-share in this area, so I’d rather spare those details and let Sabine walk you through the process. Sabine has a tendency to walk one through all the fun steps of culture shock while maintaining an “Oh, right, this is how this works.”

Prior to choosing where you will give birth, your next choice is what midwife will be attending you for all your postnatal and breastfeeding needs.

Once you’ve secured her (usually a her, or so I’ve been told), you will have a visit or two to get to know each other, fill out medical information and share who your doctor is so that they can work together. You’ll also hand over your insurance card so that s/he can be paid on time for all the hard work that will be done.

Usually the midwife visits only a few times over the course of a couple of months to assess whether or not your child is growing adequately, you’re bonding well, or if you have PPD or other complications. She will also work with your OB/GYN on doing examinations at home, at a time that things are still very delicate, and you won’t be wanting to sit in the car or on waiting room chairs. She’ll ensure that your uterus is, indeed, going back to normal size, that it is functioning as it should, and that things are healing nicely.

After giving birth, you’ll spend some time recuperating. Birth is hard, messy business and it takes a while to bounce back. Most mothers will be off of work for at least a few months, but usually an entire year, or longer.

Mothers in Germany will receive “Elterngeld“, which will basically help with those extra needs that crop up when you have a little one join your life.

Parental leave is rather generous, allowing fathers to even take as many as fourteen weeks off from work to help his wife or partner out. There have been a few recent news articles discussing the generous leave and stipends to stay at home that are given to new mothers:

“We have this expression, ‘rabenmutter’, which doesn’t even exist in other languages. ‘Ravenmother’. It means a bad mother and a woman who works is often considered a ‘rabenmutter’ in Germany.”
Is the German insult ‘Raven mothers’ holding back women at work?

The federal government passed a law late last year introducing a monthly childcare supplement of €100 to €150… which translates roughly to “money with which to care for someone.” It’s expected to cost the government €1.2 billion each year.
As of August, this supplement will be paid to parents of children aged three and under who are not in a state-subsidized daycare.
German childcare allowance raises questions about working moms

…women who are both underemployed and underpaid. German women work fewer hours than women in most other OECD countries (see chart). The gap in median pay is the third-widest in the club, after South Korea’s and Japan’s. That is partly because mothers stay at home. In 2008 just 18% of children under the age of three were in formal child care, against an OECD average of 30%.
German family policy – Pay to stay at home

…On average, a mother of one takes three years off, a mother of two up to seven years off and even then only goes back to work part-time…
With child care this good and affordable, what is it that’s keeping German mothers out of the workplace? …School often finishes at midday, it’s hard to find any job that fits this schedule.” … “There’s also a culture of mothers not working,” another mother added, “and those who do might get called a Rabenmutter.” That’s a raven mother – one who doesn’t care about her children.
The reluctant hausfrau: being a German mother

After having our first check-up with the pediatrician at the hospital of our choice, we learned rather quickly, that your children also get a copy of their medical records in an “U-heft” (Untersuchungsheft: children’s examination folder) which is also known as a “Gelbes Heft” (Yellow folder). This will house all copies of medical data from the child’s birth, through their eighteenth year. Like the Mutterpass, it is advised you take it and the Impfpass  [vaccination passport] along if you go on a trip anywhere, especially out of the country.

Prior to moving to Germany, in 2005, a law was passed in several Länder (German states) that made these check-ups legally binding, and prosecutable if you miss them.

Originally, there were ten checkups mandated, but this has changed in the last year or so with several additional check-ups added to the folder and us being told we will have additional appointments.

Children’s preventative checkups are to ensure that defects and diseases… especially those which endanger the normal physical and mental development of the child … are recognized quickly by a pediatrician, early enough to initiate appropriate therapy. At the same time studies are carried out to document cases of neglect , abandonment , child abuse or sexual abuse…
Wikipedia

Since the early seventies there were, in the Federal Republic of Germany, ten statutory checkups for children and adolescents, but not all parents were taking their children to these voluntary health checks.
Due to the appalling cases of child neglect – and child abuse…  Experts in child and youth services, child protection, physicians, doctors and many politicians began demanding federally regulated, legally mandatory, screenings for all German children.
Vorsorgeuntersuchungen

  “We have revised all mandatory checkups from the U1 to J2,” Hartmann said. The questionnaires that doctors will fill out with feedback from the parents, will in future, explore various risk factors [for example in the areas of exercise, nutrition, media consumption and parent-child interaction.]
Barmer und Kinderärzte starten neue Kindervorsorge­untersuchungen

We received the following letter in 2008:

Ladies and gentlemen, dear parents,
On the 1st of January 2008, the Hessian Child Health Protection Act came into force in Hessen. The pediatric check-ups (U1, U2, U3, U4, U5, U6, U7, U7a, U8, U9) have become mandatory by this law. To ensure that all check-ups, beginning with U4 have been conducted to U9, the …Hessian children’s care center based at the University Hospital of Frankfurt is responsible. . .
Hessisches Kindervorsorgezentrum

We ended up with three or four additional check-ups, leaving us with about fifteen or so before our children will be 18. So, double that, and we’ll be in the doctor’s office at least thirty-odd times in twenty years of being parents, barring illnesses that have us in more frequently.

One of the more frequent arguments I hear from my friends and acquaintances in the US are summed up very well by Hermana Linda at Why Not Train a Child?

My opinion is that parents are responsible for their children, the state is not. I do not believe that the state should take charge of children unless there is a dire circumstance such as obvious abuse. I do not believe that the state should be checking on children in order to make sure that they are not being abused. . .
It is just as easy, if not easier, to abuse a child before they reach school age. So, if we’re going to worry about school aged children being abused, why not worry about pre-school aged children being abused..?
Why Not Regulate Homeschoolers?

Well, as you can see, Germany doesn’t work like the United States or Canada. Nope, not at all.

Children are not only part of their family, but part of a wider, well-networked village.

Also unlike the United States, Germany has outlawed punitive discipline — you get the picture. Some areas are more granola than others, but, for the most part, Germany is very protective of mothers and children. It is also very proactive with health issues, and looking to stamp out and educate parents on how to prevent child abuse.

Germany has no separation of church and state like the United States, so it is expected that you will likely be religious, and additionally have the support network of your local church, synagogue or mosque.

If you do not, groups like CaritasDiakonie, and such are available to you, and you will be informed by your midwife about something like MOPS that is available from your local church, as well as about 100 different types of “Mommy and me” activities.

With the check-ups in place, there has been a decrease in reported abuse cases. Sadly, I cannot find these numbers at the moment, but I trust one of my German readers will know where I can find that again. I’d lost my laptop at the beginning of the year, which means I lost a vast mess of data from my old favorites, which included all of this.

I’ve had friends who argue, “With all these precautions, how could anyone educate at home?” — People do it all the time. Generally speaking, those people are either celebrities, government officials, parents who move frequently or parents of children with illnesses that necessitate schooling at home or in a hospital. It’s done every day.

I believe, if we could take care of the issue of curriculum and ensuring that parents are well supported, that education at home could be possible. My line of thinking is quite similar to what was blogged at Homeschooling’s Invisible Children today:

We do not want to do away with homeschooling… We would simply like to see convicted child abusers or sex offenders barred from homeschooling, light monitoring when families with a previous history of neglect or abuse begin homeschooling, and yearly academic assessments (via standardized test or portfolio review) to ensure that families who claim to be homeschooling are not doing so to hide abuse rather than to educate their children.

I believe that if the government could work with the families who are already schooling at home, they could come to some sort of agreement.

Well, that is my hope. We’ll see what is decided as more proceedings go through the court system, what is decided for the future of the German educational system.

Arguments For And Against Homeschooling In Germany

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Arguments For And Against Homeschooling In Germany, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 24, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling – Both sides of the issue.”

Today I would like to talk about the legalities of homeschooling. I would like to present the pro and contra views to the best of my abilities, as impartially as possible. I will play devil’s advocate for both sides, including putting views out there that even I do not believe, for the sake of arguing everything I’ve heard so far.

I will be quoting some news articles in this post. Do remember that these articles can be read in full in German, or you can run them through Google Translate. It’s not the best, but, it helps. I’m limited how much I am allowed to quote and translate by copyright law. In a way, this is a blessing and a curse.

To begin with the issue of home-schooling, we have to look at German Constitutional Law. You can find The Basic Rights in English here. You can find it in German here.

Secondly, we have to consider that each German state [Länder] is ruled by its own constitution, or, “Landesgesetz” and it also has to be considered.

Third for consideration, is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, specifically Article 26:

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Here is some information on German Compulsory Schooling Law:

…Basically, religious education is a compulsory subject with exceptions for independent denominational schools for which no religious instruction is provided …

…An exemption from sex education is not justified in most cases for reasons of faith… …parental rights are taken into account and parents are informed about the content and form of sex education with the opportunity to debate them. DAS: Freistellung vom Unterricht [The discussion of Sex Ed. becoming compulsory, can be found in this older N-TV article.]

…Different measures and judgments show that we are far away from an uniform approach towards truants in Germany. Again and again the courts and experts are consulted to assess current situations of home-schooled children…
A loss of custody for parents will be considered if the child is seriously neglected, is being abused physically or psychologically. . with very great sensitivity and empathy towards devout parents… Schulverweigerung aus religiösen Gründen [School Refusal on Religious Grounds]

One previous hearing at the European Court of Human Rights on home-schooling was Leuffen v. Germany in the early 1990s.

…The applicant is of the opinion that compulsory schooling of her son would violate her right to ensure his education in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions as guaranteed by Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (P1-2). However, the European Court of Human Rights has held that the convictions of parents must not conflict with the fundamental right of the child to education, the whole of Article 2 (Art. 2) being dominated by its first sentence (Campbell and Cosans judgment of 25 February 1982, Series A no 48, p. 16, par. 36). This means that parents may not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of their convictions.

Leuffen v. Germany

The most recent, hearing at the European Court of Human Rights on home-schooling in Germany was Konrad and Others v. Germany.

…the German courts pointed to the fact that the applicant parents were free to educate their children after school and at weekends. Therefore, the parents’ right to education in conformity with their religious convictions is not restricted in a disproportionate manner. Compulsory primary-school attendance does not deprive the applicant parents of their right to “exercise with regard to their children natural parental functions as educators, or to guide their children on a path in line with the parents’ own religious or philosophical convictions”
Konrad and Others v. Germany.

I did find another set of legal proceedings from the Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 27, No. 1; which references some of the issues here in Germany. It is a PDF that is 58 pages long. There is simply no way I can quote that. There’s some good information therein, and there’s some poor scholarship as well.

I also find a DVD on homeschooling called “Schulfrei“, and a couple books about homeschooling in Germany (in German) that are available to purchase. The first is: Homeschooling in Deutschland: Gesetze und Praxis eines umstrittenen Begriffs. The second is: Schulfrei: Vom Lernen ohne Grenzen.  The third, is Pädagogik mit beschränkter Haftung: Kritische Schultheorie. There may be more that I have not heard of, so if you are so inclined, just drop a comment below and I can update this with that information.

You may find German Home-schooling Websites here:

You will find information and support for German Home-schooling at the following sites: HSLDA, GHEC and HEDUA.

If you know of others, I’m happy to link them up here in the spirit of free information and people making up their own minds.

*****

…”The only thing I did not find good about homeschooling was that we had to hide ourselves… Otherwise, lessons at home have advantages.”

… “Most of the other homeschoolers I know are Christians like us. Almost all get an apprenticeship because they can not do A-Levels if they do not attend school.”

…”There is an assumption that one takes refuge in a parallel society that is fundamentalist and sectarian. But we really do want to integrate ourselves.
FAZ: Eine Homeschoolerin erzählt „Wir mussten uns verstecken“
 [A Homeschooler tells us, “We have to hide”]

PUR: Can parents teach at home because even the immense wealth of current knowledge about children being readily available? Or do you need a special training?

Klemens Lichter: It is said that today we live in the information age… the information is already available. What you need is the ability to filter this enormous amount of information and to evaluate and make sense to use to complete the task in each instance. . . the Nuremberg Funnel has outlived its usefulness.
Pur: Interview mit einem Homeschool-Vater
 
[Pur: An interview with a homeschool father]

Education at home is, in general, contrary to popular opinion so it is no small matter that it is unregulated. In countries where this form of education is generally accepted, there is support and help for parents who wish to home educate. Similarly, it is a fallacy to think that home schooling parents rejected some grand plan of the state on principle.

Of course, homeschooled children must pass state tests and acquire the appropriate legal qualifications recognized…
CDU in Kiel diskutierte über Schulunterricht zuhause und die Erziehungshoheit der Eltern
  [Stephan Ehmke, councilor and school policy spokesman of the CDU faction Council Kiel discussed home schooling and the education authority of the parents]

Even the children of the Wunderlich family should have a high level of education. The Office of Education has recently made a picture of their performance level. “The children have consequently a higher than average reading skills,” says Andreas Vogt, the lawyer for the family, “they have a high scientific knowledge, may very well work independently and have a high concentration skills.”
“Unsere Kinder gehören nicht dem Staat”

[Firstly,] there is an educationally oriented parenting, that is trying to change the German school system by homeschooling. …[Secondly, there are] education-oriented parents, who feel that the school no longer provides the knowledge they need to make their children happy… a frame-work that is worth living… pleasant surroundings, closely accompanied by adults who react responsibly and humanely…

… [Thirdly, there are] religiously motivated parents who say that due to religious reasons, they do not wish certain history, sex education and so on to be expected of their children. 
“Man muss die Schulpflicht etwas lockern” Erziehungswissenschaftler plädiert für kontrollierten Hausunterricht 
[“You need to loosen compulsory education up a bit.” Education researcher pleads for controlled home schooling ]

…compulsory education … ensures that – always on the basis of our constitution – education which is not subject to an ideology is possible. (Although, there are those who think there is a specific ideology behind the public school.) Were it not for compulsory education, our society would drift apart and strengthen ideological conflicts that are already available [creating flash-points].

…to abolish compulsory education in Germany would be a significantly greater injustice.
Die allgemeine Schulpflicht muss erhalten bleiben
 [Compulsory education must be maintained]

…Home-schooling means nothing other than children or youth are learning all necessary content they otherwise receive… from their parents…

…figures from the U.S. state there are now between two and three million children and young people who are homeschooled…

In Germany, there is a trend towards home-schooling, but there is a legal issue… in that compulsory education is tied to visiting a school building until age eighteen.
Neuer Trend des Homeschooling – Ist der Weg für Homeschooling in Deutschland bald frei?
 [New trend of Homeschooling – is the way for homeschooling ready to be paved?]

Critics like to point out that the compulsory education was an achievement of the Nazis – which is not entirely true, because it existed before, but it has only actually been punishable [with fees and jail time] since 1938. In other countries, you do not find such a rigorous focus on collective learning (with the exception of Bulgaria)…
FAZ: Hausunterricht-Verbot „Wie in einer Diktatur“
 [Homeschooling ban “as in a dictatorship”]

The fact that homeschooling is legal throughout Europe, while being stringently prohibited in places such as Germany… suggests that European Union policy makers are working so fast it may not even be clear to anyone how much authority the local and national authorities have. In addition, local and national authorities haven’t even had a chance to develop a good game plan. …20% of Germany’s citizens are of non-German descent… it’s hard to understand the concern with Christian parallel cultures unless a new “unity” is in the program.
Homeschoolers vs. the European Union

As a movement, home-schooling originated in the United States in the 70s. At this time, criticism of the public school system was in the foreground. The alternatives and liberals of old have, since the 80s and especially the 90s, been replaced by Christian fundamentalists who want to educate their children as unencumbered by problematic themes such as biology, where rejected themes such as the theory of evolution is to be taught.
Heise.de: Heimunterricht schafft die christliche Avantgarde
 
[Home schooling provides the Christian vanguard]

*****

What are the typical arguments for home-schoolers not using the available school systems nearby?

  • Believe that teaching is the only option for parents, sending children to school is sinful or neglectful.
  • Bad school system
  • Child is a genius and not being allowed to flower and advance
  • Child has medical issues and requires assistance to be mainstreamed, and is not being accommodated.
  • Chronic or Temporary illness
  • Mixing with unbelievers (religious standpoint of needing a parallel society of believer/unbeliever)
  • Ecumenicalism
  • Required classes that they disagree with philosophically (sexual education, evolution, world religion, folk stories, swim classes, gym classes, meals, meditation/prayer, religious holidays)
  • Push for Vaccination (or pressure because they are not vaccinated)
  • Peer-pressure/Bad influence
  • Bullying/Sexual harassment/Stalking
  • Dating Scene
  • Television, Radio, Internet and/or Movies being available in the classroom
  • Books they disagree with being on the required reading
  • Dress Code/Modesty reasons (includes ability or inability to wear religious items)
  • “”Alternative Lifestyles””
  • Perception that the government is wholly evil and out to turn children against their parents.
  • “other”.

If parents are allowed to educate at home, children can be put to their own pace, and based on their own strengths and weaknesses and one on one attention: flourish. They must not school for a set number of hours, or wait on other students to complete their tasks to move on. Every trip away from home is a “Field trip” – imagine all the things you could do if you plan it out for the education it can bring to your child(ren).

Bad influences are left out of the equation. Children do not have to be small missionaries before they solidly have their belief system engrained in their system. They also will not question about other religious beliefs or ancient religious beliefs, unless that is something the parents wish to cover.

Children do not have to be exposed to other cultures or belief systems before the parents are ready to discuss such a thing. In contrast, children can learn as much, or as little as parents want them to learn about religious beliefs in general. They will not be forced to take a religious class or ethics when home-schooled.

Children do not have to be taught about sex until subsequent children are born and they ask out of natural curiosity, pets or farm animals are to be had, or whatever age parents choose to tell them their beliefs about sex. LGBTQ or Intersex is something that is usually left off the table until children are taught about sex — unless parents believe this is a choice, and are then taught that it sinful and people who live that lifestyle are confused.

Parents who do not want to teach certain theories, such as evolution; do not have to.

In general, there is no peer-pressure, bad influences, bullying or dating going on in home-school groups or associations.

There is no arbitrary dress code when one home-schools. Children simply do as modeled and do not question it until they are closer towards leaving the home.

Dating is handled differently from family to family or group to group. Some allow it, some forbid it. Some arrange marriages and some only allow chaperoned “visits” with no alone time until the children are paired off for marriage. Some allow children to choose on their own how they will handle it.

If a child has a temporary or chronic illness, they can school themselves on their own schedule.

If children are gifted, they can pursue their own education at their own pace. If children have mental or physical impairments, accommodations can be made and are easier due to being on a one on one situation.

Children are free to go to church services every time the doors are open, and are able to have their curriculum peppered with as much or as little religious teaching as the parents are comfortable with.

There is no set “type” or curriculum for home-schooling. Parents are free to choose however they wish to school their children.

Children are allowed to listen to/view the music, internet and television or movies that parents approve of and nothing more.

*****

What are the typical arguments that are against homeschooling?

  • Parents are often not prepared to offer the best education possible.
  • Concerns about the rights and safety of the children
  • Free-agency of the children (aka: Groupthink – are children able to think for themselves?)
  • Concerns about curriculum
  • Placement testing – will it occur? Who will administer the tests?
  • Psychological  or Emotional health
  • Religious or Philosophical issues
  • Various forms of abuse
  • Worries over whether home-schoolers will be able to advance to university/college or relegated to apprenticeships and low-wage jobs. [Most children who are home-schooled do not receive a diploma on par with their learning abilities, simply because they are home-schooled.]
  • Social issues – will the children know what individuals are talking about if they’ve only been exposed to home-schooling society and their religious circles?
  • Whether or not home educated students will be afforded physical education or other courses that are generally offered in compulsory schooling

A lot of home-schoolers tend to have an unhealthy (in very few cases, a justified) fear of Child Protective Services and build it up as an evil institution filled with individuals bent on serving Satan, forgetting that there are also Christians working within the system. — How can we repair these broken lines of communication?

A “no true Scotsman” approach is prevalent where home-schoolers are faced with well documented cases of abuse or child death at the hands of home-educating parents.

No one wants to hear of it or acknowledge that it happens. Arguments are usually “They weren’t really home-schoolers” or “They were not associated with the HSLDA [or other umbrella of protection].” (See: Homeschooling’s Invisible childrenTo Break Down a ChildWhy not Train a Child?, Abuse and the HSLDAErica Parsons, etc.)

There are issues with punitive parenting methods that certain denominations of Christianity teach as necessary to drive sin out of children. These forms of physical and emotional discipline methods are illegal in Germany. (Yet, we know they were used amongst many home educators in the United States, and the Zwölf Stämme in Germany.)

There are issues with spiritual abuse via cultish groups who advocate strictly patriarchal viewpoints that are clearly a part of the curse mentality taught in Genesis 3. This is very much against the Judeo-Christian spirit of the Grundgesetz, which clearly states that women are in equal standing with men. (Grundgesetz, Article 3,2: “Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.”)

There are issues with individuals who wish to teach philosophies that are against the better interest of Germany or society at large, such as White Supremacist, Neo-Nazi or other anti-semitic ideals.

Not all home-schoolers believe in or teach Judeo-Christian values. Many are Athiest, Agnostic, Humanists, Pagans, or of other religious belief systems. If they are allowed to school at home, who says what is/isn’t allowed, and how can we ensure that they are adequately socialized if they are not allowed into home-school umbrellas operated or attended by Christians?

If the government allows home-schooling for one religious group, it must allow home-schooling for everyone.

There is no set curriculum for home-schooling. There are also no placement tests for children who are educated at home, unless they are finally being re-entered into compulsory education. How can we ensure that parents are giving equal educational opportunities as public, private and religious schools?

Home-education is not accredited, how can society guarantee that children have the same ability as their peers to get high paying jobs, if they so wish? Does this mean that we will need to set up “umbrella” organizations that oversee curriculum that is accredited and treat home educators like private school satellites?

Theories that are seen as incompatible with the parent’s point of view are often not taught. How will the children know, understand or be able to discuss with their intellectual peers — theories such as evolution (micro, macro and everything in between) or “Big Bang”, Intelligent Design and Creationism on intellectual levels?

What about situations where there is clearly abuse going on? (Sexual, physical, emotional or spiritual?) How do we prevent that if there is no oversight?

Some children have physical, emotional or mental delays. If they are kept at home 90% of the time, who will suggest early intervention or help stave off massive delays if there is no oversight or interaction with their peer group?

Many home-school parents have a tendency to segregate themselves from non-home educating parents. How can we ensure that parents are getting enough social interaction so that they do not burn-out or experience emotional difficulties due to this isolation?

Some of these arguments are presented in German hereherehere and here; as well as elsewhere in newspaper opinion articles or comments to newspaper editors.

Now you’ve seen both sides. What are your thoughts on home-schooling in Germany?

“Diplomas Play No Role For Us”: The Case of the Wunderlichs

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“Diplomas Play No Role For Us”: The Case of the Wunderlichs, by Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 16, 2013 with the title, “German Homeschooling Case – The Wunderlichs.”

I’ve just finished getting myself caught up with the issue of sects in Germany who try to home-school and have had run ins with the law. Generally, but not always, the HSLDA has has been meddling in Germany with these issues rather than let people hash out the Constitutional law within the courts and appealing to the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe.

For what it is worth, I was home-schooled from the sixth grade forward under the Home School Legal Defense Association umbrella. (1993-1999)

I do not believe in breaking the law to do whatever you want. You have to lobby to have the laws changed.

You have to argue, within the court system that Constitutional law is antiquated and argue that the law must be changed so that you can work within it; if that is what you truly believe.

However, in the last decade or so, many sects of Christian home-schoolers who have been pressing the issue have been doing many things to place their children in danger; giving sub-par education, little or no medical attention; living the life of isolationists — which has caused the government to be well within rights to be breathing down their necks or taking their children into foster care.

The problem here is, Germany looks at issues like this as if it were a family matter. It’s more than looking at it as a purely domestic matter that any German allies can weigh in on. This doesn’t concern other court systems in the EU, and the European Court of Human Rights has already weighed in on German Homeschooling cases. It doesn’t concern allies, such as the United States.

You also have to remember that while Germany’s treatment of groups with cultish or extremist sectarian beliefs  sometimes amount to “discrimination” in many of our allies eyes, its laws must be seen the context of its history and the fear of political as well as religious extremism. We are finding more and more, that people who do separate themselves out of society do tend to trend towards both religious and political extremism.

This does not at all exclude or include the cases that the HSLDA has been weighing in on.

With this in mind, you have to know that there are around 400 Homeschooling families in Germany if the HSLDA is to be believed. Schuzh says it is closer to 500 families. This also counts the Romeike Family, The Wunderlichs and the families of the Zwölf Stämme, which I have discussed before.

This blog, however, states the numbers are rather questionable:

How many Germans ignore German laws on compulsory education, can not be measured as most parents simply [home-school in secret] or emigrate in secret. Stefanie Mohsennia knows about 200 free-learning German families and speculates that there are currently over 1,000 families in Germany who do not send their children to school. “There are always more.” says Stefanie Mohsennia…Leben im Untergrund – Homeschooling-Familien in Deutschland [Living underground – Home-schooling families in Germany]

As far as what the European Human Rights Court has to say:

[The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe] refused to admit the applicant’s constitutional complaint because it had already dealt with the decisive constitutional issues in its settled case-law.

…[The EU Human Rights Court] notes that there exists a difference of treatment between the applicant’s children and…  children [who] were physically unfit …or… [whose] parents move around the country… 
… the Court finds that the above distinctions justifies a difference of treatment.
Konrad and Others v. Germany

Konrad v. Germany also makes it clear that Germany’s “Basic Law” guarantees “the right to establish private schools.” The state does therefore not have a monopoly on education, only the right to regulate it.
Locus Standi: International Human Rights and Home schooling

Yet, when the news did break in American papers about the Wunderlich family last year, and this year – everything became sensationalized, and suddenly there is a lot of fear-mongering and lies being spread about how the compulsory schooling laws came into place, and why they came into place in Germany. [To clarify: It has been repeated quite often that these laws came into place when the NSDAP was in power and we’re very “Nazi” for not repealing them.] It’s made me physically ill that this is being said over and over through right-leaning news, and therefore disseminated to other Christians.

I literally have relatives that are terrified that I am suddenly surrounded by an up and coming Fourth Reich.

Why don’t we have a look and see why?

“The education administration in future will also not recognize so-called homeschooling and act in proportionate measure considering the individual case and circumstances.””
WND: Government declares war on homeschooling parents (2006)

“A copy of the report justifying immediate seizure of the children was obtained by HSLDA. The reasons given for the seizure were that the children were ‘socially isolated,’ not in school and that there was a ‘flight risk,’ – none of which appear to be true,” the report said.

The family fled Germany because of a series of fines imposed for homeschooling and the concern that German authorities inside Germany would take custody of the children.
WND: French police grab 4 kids on German orders (2009)

Wunderlich said the Jugendamt “told me that the children must go to school.”
“We are very saddened by the way our country treats us,” he said. “Our nerves are black and short, and we are very tired by the pressure.
“I don’t understand my own country. What are we doing wrong? We are just doing what should be allowed to anyone.”
WND: State takes custody of children over socialization (2012)

Within days of the family registering their presence in Darmstadt, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later city’s ‘Youth Welfare Office’ was granted legal custody of the children.
The Daily Mail UK: Armed Police turn up at family home wiht a battering ram to sieze their children after they defy Germany’s ban on homeschooling

After the children were taken, authorities “invited” the parents to a meeting with social workers. They were told they were not even being allowed an immediate court hearing on the status of the children.
WND: Police storm homeschool class, take children by force

Petra Wunderlich said her heart was shattered. “We are empty,” she said. “We need help. We are fighting but we need help.”
Life Site News: ‘We are empty’: Police storm German homeschooling family’s house, seize children

In an interview in Berlin last year, Dirk Wunderlich said he was prepared to go to jail rather than send his children to school. “But I’m not afraid of this,” he said. “I’m only sad for my family. I will go (to jail) laughing. You can do what you want, but my children will not go to school.”
CBN: German Officials Abduct Homeschooled Kids from Parents

…Failing to find employment, Mr.  Wunderlich last year had to bring the family back to their home country of Germany. Within days the “Youth Welfare Office” was granted legal custody of their children on the grounds of criminal truancy.
…The Wunderlich family’s experience foreshadows an ominous future for other German homeschooling families… and … raise concerns about the freedom of families in all free nations…
CrossMap: Government Seizes German Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s Homeschooling Children—Whose Kids Are They?

 On their return, German authorities began a criminal truancy case against them and the children were placed in the custody of the Darmstadt Youth Welfare Office. Authorities found the children to be well treated… but seized the children’s passports to prevent the family from leaving the country.
CNA: German raid on home-schooling family draws condemnation

The court order allowed the police the use of force against both parents and children; it stated that the children had “adopted the parent’s opinions” regarding homeschooling, and that “no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children.
Gatestone Institute: Europe: Treating Homeschoolers Like Terrorists

The Wunderlich’s lawyers will argue their case on the basis that the current education law is too vague. They are also arguing on the basis of the international treaties Germany has signed, since they appear to be violating those treaty obligations. HSLDA is helping support the Wunderlich’s lawyers… Although the Wunderlichs are hoping for a court date in September, they are still waiting.
The American Conservative: German Children Seized From Parents for Crime of Homeschooling

HSLDA lawyer Michael Donnelly said that when child protective systems in countries such as a Germany– which “claims to be a ‘liberal democracy’ committed to pluralism and human rights – allows for police raids to take children from otherwise good families who are providing a home education, liberty is at risk everywhere.”
WND: Homeschool case focal point for hate mail

What do the Wunderlichs think about this, themselves? Well, let’s hear it in their own words:

In 2005, our first child Machsejah reached the age of compulsory school attendance. We started home schooling from then on. At that time, war with the education agency began… A civil fine was levied. Then we were sued. We were found guilty of violating the compulsory school attendance statute and a monetary penalty was imposed. That was in 2008.
Interview with Dirk Wunderlich through the HEDUA Part 1

Our complete and no-holds-barred rejection of the institution of the school is reflected by exactly this argument. Even if public schools would align themselves with our beliefs and other educational ideas at the 100% level (without compromise whatsoever), we still would not send our children to school. The reason is that we are convinced that God’s intentions and plans for us cannot be realized within the artificial setting of school.
Interview with Dirk Wunderlich through the HEDUA Part 2

HEDUA also has articles herehereherehere, here and here that explain how the Wunderlich family sees their situation.

I do agree that there are issues with how certain sects of Christianity (and even Scientology) that homeschool are handled in Germany. We’ve seen how this plays out with the court cases involving the Zwölf Stämme. There are sometimes gaps in information between the courts, or the Jugendamt is sometimes slow to enforce the Schulpflicht or fines for not sending your children to school.

As far as the Wunderlich family goes, things are clearly not on the up and up. They were told by the state and each city seat that they’ve lived in that they can not continue to homeschool. They continued irregardless.

They’ve come out openly laughing in the face of the government. They’ve said that they’re happy to go to jail and lose custody of their children so that they can create a separatist faith movement and parallel society from their own home.

They’ve moved from city to city, and when that wasn’t working; they left the country. This raises questions. I don’t know what all questions this raises, but it certainly leaves holes in information that can lead one to many conclusions, of which, I am not ready to make any.

All the news articles I’ve read in English (from Fox, The Blaze, World Net Daily, CBN, World Mag and others) so far show very clearly that the authors know next to nothing about Germany, German law, German society at large, or the German educational system and its history. Instead, they’re happy to perpetuate myths and simply assume the police is this evil entity, because surely the HSLDA would not lie.

The information that I can find says that the court has found “The welfare of children is at risk. The children have not been receiving the education that would have been age-expected.”  This is enough to create concern in a nation full of over-acheivers who look for everyone to at least meet age-expected educational goals.

This sets a whole lot of questions flying. I do not know what to make of that. Does this mean that the children are now learning above their age grade, or that they are falling behind? I do not know.

Let’s see how the German news is handling this:

… the parents refuse any school system: “There is, however, compulsory education, the parents can not escape.” It does not mean just education, but also about social interaction and involvement that allows other world views to be heard. The children have been placed in a juvenile facility after a confirmed judicial decision by the Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt am Main. All attempts at discussion to reach an amicable agreement with the parents, during the summer holidays have been unsuccessful.
Idea: Jugendamt nimmt Christen die Kinder weg [Child Protective Services take Christian children away]

 …“Diplomas play no role for us. Our goal is heaven.” “Our family belongs to no specific Christian denomination, we are simply believers.” Dirk [Wunderlich] attended the Kreis Bergstraße’s Odenwald school, and he emphasizes the importance of Jesus Christ for himself and his family…
Echo: Schulpflicht: Jugendamt verteidigt Trennung von ElternSorgerecht – Vier Kinder aus Wembach werden schrittweise auf Schulbesuch vorbereitet  [Compulsory education: Youth Office defends separation of parents from children. Custody – Four children from Wembach to be gradually prepared for school]

Side note here: The Odenwaldschule [where Dirk Wunderlich attended] was known for a huge scandal that went down where the children were being sexually abused by some of the teachers. There was also mentioned of physical discipline being carried out. (It’s mentioned here in German, but not in the English Wikipedia article. You can find more here, here and here.) 

This is not insinuating anything about the family, but giving additional information that is not readily knowable to people who do not live in this area.

I know others who went to this school and nothing ever happened to them, and they are just as shocked as the rest of us that anything happened there.  As far as the education at the school goes, it was one of the best in the area.

…Parents are of the Christian faith and have hermetically sealed off their children from the outside world. They will have also refused to let the children be taught at a state-recognized private Christian school, reports the “Hessischer Rundfunk”…

…Evangelical Christians fight especially hard for the right to homeschool. They want their children to be kept away from worldly influences and try to educate them in their strict faith-driven world view…
Spiegel:  Schulverweigerer in Hessen: Polizei holt Kinder aus streng religiöser Familie [Truants in Hessen: Police bring children from a strictly religious family]

“If and when the children return to their parents, it is still unclear,” says Frank Horneff. In fact, the family will have to wait a while until a decision on their possible reunification. The District Court of Darmstadt intends to have the parents in for a hearing at the end of September.
Die Welt: Behandelt, “als wäre ich ein Terrorist” [Treated “as if I were a terrorist”]

For the time being, this is the only news coming out, other than from Der Blaue Brief which is linked to the HSLDA and other homeschool groups in Germany.

However, I do want to point out some very integral things that are not much discussed when it concerns Christian sects that wish to homeschool here in Germany. There are passages in Scripture that suggest that Christians are to take an unassuming, blameless lifestyle wherever we find ourselves; unless that government is causing them to break commandments in the Bible. Especially concerning our witness to those who do not believe as we do.

It is my full belief that breaking the law to do something you are convicted to do — especially something that is not commanded  by G-d explicitly in the Bible — is a terribly bad idea. 

Frequently moving around to escape the law, leaving the country when the court catches up to you, and hiding your children from the world is terribly suspicious, and not something the Bible commands.

Meddling in another country’s affairs to subvert the government (speaking of the HSLDA here, which is an American Homeschool Legal Defense Association), is also not a really good idea.

Especially when the Human Rights Courts of the EU have already twice made a ruling on similar cases, and the Constitutional Court of said country you are meddling in said “No, this is not happening and here is why.”

On the heels of the Wunderlich case, we have issues with abuses that have been uncovered by the Zwölf Stämme. My question here is: what kind of parenting methods are going on in the Wunderlich home that we might maybe need know about? (Remember, Corporal Punishment is illegal in Germany and has been for over a decade.)  Also, why is the HSLDA so very invested in Germany, and constantly sending funds back and forth to keep the courts here spinning?

Why are Americans being called upon to support these families, and why is the HSLDA lying about what is happening?

What exactly are they helping to hide, besides these families squirreling away their children and teaching them that the government is out to steal and destroy their souls?  Why are these families so afraid of the readily available Christian education?

There are so many questions here, many, which I feel will not be further answered until we hear more from the different court cases as they go forward.

I’m sorry that the families have been separated, but I can see where this is something that had to take place considering how blatantly the Wunderlichs are in their defiance of German law, and how happy they are to make themselves out as martyrs.  I hope that the children can see their parents, but I pray that we do not find out that there has been any physical or psychological abuse going on as we’ve heard from a few other homeschool groups. (As mentioned in the documentary above, and in the case with the Zwölf Stämmen)

There don’t seem to be very many answers to this issue at the moment.

Pray For All The Children Of The Twelve Tribes — Part Two

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Pray For All The Children Of The Twelve Tribes — Part Two, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 14, 2013 with the title, “The Twelve Tribes group in Germany Part Two.”

< Part One

*****

Before beginning with this article, please see:

As far as I know, not much of this has made it out into American news as of yet.

It is the so often maligned and often-criticized private broadcaster RTL, which has significantly contributed to the liberation of… children from the …Twelve Tribes sect.
…At the beginning of the week, the television report documented “The sect ’12 tribes’: They preach peace, torturing their own children” …this was the first time the beating allegations against the controversial faith community were brought to light.
W&V: Sekten-Film deckt auf: Wie RTL dem Jugendamt Beine macht [Sect film uncovered: How RTL hurried up the Child Protective Services]

The sect was founded in the 70s by a small group in the U.S.. It is named after the twelve tribes of Israel, according to the Hebrew Bible or the “Tanakh” YHWH  (the proper name of God in the Tanakh) called the chosen people of Israel. Worldwide, there are probably 2,000 members.
Mittlebayerische: Zwölf Stämme: Noch keine Entscheidung [Twelve Tribes: Still no decision]

..A large proportion of children have been placed in foster families, the elder children in youth welfare institutions. Four infants were brought to the police together with their mothers from the sect. They are now living in mother-child facilities…
Focus: Nach völliger Isolation – Sekte Zwölf Stämme: Wie geht es den Kindern jetzt? [After full isolation – 12 Tribes Sect – How are the children now?]

The court heard about the loss of custody of ten children. … Starting next week, the proceedings for the remaining children will be heard at the district court in Nördlingen.Süddeutsche Zeitung: Gericht hört Eltern An (Court hears parent’s testimony)

 The court has removed the children from parental custody, largely due to previous findings, “the specific danger that there would be a considerable damage to the children if they would remain in care with their parents.”
The “Twelve Tribes” are represented particularly in the U.S.. Therefore, the courts are also examining the English-language parenting manual of the sect.
Der Spiegel:  “Zwölf Stämme”: Verfahren gegen Christen-Sekte beginnen

 Lehnberger stated that at the hearing also drafted the 146 page comprehensive education manual of the Twelve Tribes in English, as it plays a instrumental role in the case. A witness for ideological matters [Biblical matters], a representative of the Catholic Church was interviewed on Friday afternoon as well.
… The meetings of the District Court Ansbach are not public.
Augsburger Allgemeine: Zwölf Stämme-Aussteiger”Kriegen sie die Kinder wieder, setzen sie sich ab“ [Ex Twelve Tribes Members: If they ever get their children again, they’ll dissappear.] – This one goes on to say that the hearing for the other parents will begin on Wednesday.

 Director Gudrun Lehnberger said on Friday night that the court of Ansbach did not want to visit the  decision on custody again. The hearings lasted for late into Friday evening for the parents. On Monday morning, more details are expected to shared with the public.

In Ansbach, six former members of the sect were also heard by video feed from a secret location. Due to issues [with the Twelve Tribes], these six individuals have remained living in secrecy…
Nordbayern: Prügelvorwürfe um “Zwölf Stämme”: Verhandlungsausgang offen

 “I think the authorities would prefer to let the issue disappear in the drawer, because otherwise their own failings would have been visible,” said the ex-members to FOCUS. “They all looked the other way.”
Focus: „Alle haben weggeschaut“ Schwere Vorwürfe von ehemaligem Zwölf-Stämme-Mitglied  [“Everyone looked the other way” – Serious Accusations from former 12 Tribes Member]

 The district court Nördlingen have seventeen preceedings ahead… Despite the urgency of this family matter, normal operating procedures of the Court must go on.

The “Twelve Tribes” have criticized the provisional court’s decision on partial withdrawal of parental custody. On the homepage of the Community in Klosterzimmern and Wörnitz the police action is referred to as “children robbed by the state”. Because of the abuse allegations, prosecution is looking at proceedings against members of the sect. An initial investigation on this issue had been set a few weeks ago.
N24:  Sorgerechtsprozesse begonnen Die “Zwölf Stämme” und der “Kinderraub”

On the Internet, the faith community expresses their educational practices… There it is clearly stated: “Yes, we beat our children.” He continued: “We love our children and they are precious and wonderful to us. Because we love them, we beat their butts.”
Focus: Erziehung bei „Zwölf Stämmen“Sekte: „Weil wir sie lieben, schlagen wir unsere Kinder“ (Child-rearing by the Twelve Tribes Sect – “We hit our children because we love them”)

“All parents demand the abolition of judicial decisions,” said District Court Director Gudrun Lehnberger. In the coming week, the case will formally begin with the other children at the district court Nördlingen.
Die Welt: Sekte verteidigt Prügel als Zeichen der Liebe (The sect defended beatings as a sign of love)

[Reporter:] What determines how much a child is changed by [beatings]?
Dietmayer: It depends on how much emotional resources a child has, so how mentally stable he or she is. For many kids, this triggers one psychologically, which in turn may later lead to a variety of psychiatric disorders. And that can happen even if the child is beaten only once.
Augsberger Allgemeine: Zwölf Stämme – Kinderpsychiaterin: Schläge schaden einem Kind massiv (Twelve Tribes: Child Psychologist says “Beating damages children greatly”)

If you would like to know more about how damaging and evil this group truly is, you can hear it from former members directly, here. Please note that this is a site that is primarily in English for former members that speak English. I’m looking around for other resources. It seems that the German site for the Zwölf Stämme has now been suspended.

If I hear any more come next week, I’ll update again.  I hope that those of you who are fasting on Yom Kippur have an easy and light fast, and are sealed for another year.  For us, it is a difficult day of prayer with these recent revelations.

*****

To be continued.

Pray For All The Children Of The Twelve Tribes — Part One

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Pray For All The Children Of The Twelve Tribes — Part One, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on September 12, 2013 with the title, “The Twelve Tribes group in Germany.”

Today I wanted to take time and discuss a recent breaking news story coming out of Germany about a cult that is three hours to our east.  If you haven’t heard the news, well, stay tuned as I’ll help get you caught up to speed.

Today’s post is about the Twelve Tribes, or Zwölf Stämme group that is based out of Klosterzimmern in the municipality of Deiningen, and Ansbach, Bavaria. Twelve Tribes is a very difficult group to pin down, theologically speaking. They take elements of fundamentalist beliefs (mostly Independent Fundamentalist Baptist), Messianic Judaism, Hebrew Roots, Sacred Name and World Wide Church of God beliefs.  Where they diverge, is that they believe and teach that they are the only group that has truth and will be going to the afterlife.

Twelve Tribes also is extremely patriarchal, racist, antisemitic, somewhat communist (they live in communes and everyone works), and engages in child labor. In Germany, Zwölf Stämme is known more for their push for homeschooling which ended somewhat amicably with them creating their own private school that did not have to teach any sex education or evolution theory or anything else that they believe is contrary to “biblical” beliefs.  The agreement with the government included that there would be state oversight so that the community would not be fully removing itself or the children from society at large.

Contrary to the painting by the HSLDA, Germany does not retain Nazi-era laws where it pertains to homeschoolers.

I love all of you, but Hitler was not the one who made school compulsory in Germany. I’ve discussed that before, just a little bit and about our educational system when I blogged about the homeschooling Romeike family.

With the Zwölf Stämme, there have been many concerns of child labor laws being broken before. It is not uncommon with this group that every person gives and puts in work with their fields, and also with their money-making ventures.  What hadn’t been well known until recently, was how abusive and systemically so, their child rearing practices were. There were suspicions, but people cannot be investigated solely based on suspicions here.

There have been teenagers and 20-somethings that have left the cult, but they, for the most part, had been getting psychological help and then moving on with their lives, rather than assisting others in leaving the cult. They have mentioned the abuse, but the onus was on others to go in and prove it was happening other than “he and she said”.

I find this heartbreaking for all people who have been put through abuse like this.

From what I understand from an acquaintance that had gotten in with the group in Vermont, Twelve Tribes is extremely difficult to get into, and that much harder to get out of. The abuse is not just with children, but also with those who come into the group. There are enforcers, and if you question anything, you are starved of food and sleep until you comply with the group leaders. Also, the oversight committee is only very loosely associated with each Twelve Tribe community.  This means any appeals for assistance in leaving will have to be done through loving family members and possibly the local police departments.

From what I can gather, punitive parenting books are quite the rage in the Zwölf Stämme. Interviews with the reporter who came out proving the abuse, and with some of the survivors of the group have mentioned  practices that are inconsistent with child-rearing in Germany and Biblical practice.

The abuses this cult has carried out were well hidden from the German government, because these methods are illegal.

If you’re new to the blog and don’t know much about Gentle Grace Based Discipline, what I am discussing here is the systemic belief that all children are born horrible sinners (or easily influenced by the Devil) that need to be physically and emotionally abused from birth.  What parents want to result from this is first time obedience, unquestioning obedience, and no talking back. What they receive?  Abused children that are terrified to do anything that would ever cross their parents, or the leaders involved in the community. Grace is not for children in this belief system. Grace is for adults who have found some sort of agreement with the leaders of the community that they are living “Biblically” and for them alone.

What hasn’t much been discussed in the German case is the propensity for sometimes sexual predatory action in communities such as these. When you have children that are too terrified to speak out against systemic abuse methods such as whipping for doing anything the parents or community leaders do not like, they also will not speak out when they are being sexually abused, because surely that wasn’t something they were not supposed to do, as someone in authority forced themselves onto them.

I am praying that, beyond all hopes, this is not something that was happening at this Twelve Tribes compound.

The news that has come out of the community is that children as young as six months were taken away from their parents to be punitively disciplined by select members of the community. Babies that cried or were otherwise deemed “sinful” were held very tightly so that they would cry until they could cry no more.

Forty children were removed from the compound outside of Deiningen, and placed into child protective services while being interviewed by authorities who are trying to find ways to assist them, deprogram them and get them into schools and families that can help them detox from this lifestyle.

I cannot begin to tell you how much agony I have been in since the news broke. Several methods mentioned that were employed in the compound are methods I am having PTSD-reactions about from my own childhood.

What has angered me beyond all reason is how quickly Michael Farris, head of the HSLDA was to pick up this story and stand behind the Zwölf Stämme and say that there was no abuse happening. Because we know the HSLDA is all about systemic abuses and hiding those from authorities. It bothers me how little the HSLDA respects other country’s laws and rights to live according to their belief systems and instead do not focus on the abuses that are endemic in their own back yard.

For those who think that is quite the thing for such a blogger as myself to say, I too was an HSLDA child. I didn’t trust them as far as I could throw something at them as a homeschooler, and I trust them even less now that I’ve an adult and living outside of the US. They are a terrible representation for Christians and of Christianity when it comes to how they treat others. Where’s the grace there guys? Really. Where’s the love?

So, after the news breaks as to how the information came to the police and to raid the compound, Michael Farris is notified of the abuses. All he says is “I said something in that nature, but I see now that my sources were wrong.” [He said and implied there were no abuses.]

So, all we get is a “my bad.” Not an apology.

The best news source at the moment, that has discussed what happened, comes by way of The UK’s Independent Newspaper.

The film shows how children are made to get up at 5am and stand though an hour-long prayer session. They are obliged to labour with adults in the community’s farm plots and workshops…
“It’s normal to be beaten every day,” said Christian…
The film also shows… a baby boy being forcefully gripped by the back of the head in a practice referred to by sect members as “restraining.” 
In Germany’s Twelve Tribes sect, cameras catch ‘cold and systematic’ child-beating

The remainder of the news stories I will be quoting are from German news sources. I will translate them and share them here with the original sources. I would suggest using Google Translate to read them if you do not have German language knowledge. It will not be a perfect translation, but it will help you know what is going on. Just plop the link in the translate area and set the translation from German to English (or your language of choice). It will do the rest of the work for you.

There is video here from RTL, where two former members, Christian and Jael (or Yael?) explain how children are mishandled in the sect. I have to admit that I did big giant ugly cries when I listened to them and saw the video attached.

There is also video here from RTL where a former member, Klaus F., discusses his feelings and knowledge about the revelations from the Zwölf Stämme, after having lived for many years in the sect, leaving with his four children but without his wife; who chose to stay behind.

Over and over again, in both videos, a current member of the sect says they “do not call it spanking or hitting, we just call it disciplining.” And goes into detail about how they pick rods to hit the children with.

I do not see how this can be deniable when it was recorded and the members are known.

On top of this, the reporter asked the authorities, and they knew that the children were being spanked, but they didn’t know how badly or how many. (This is cleared up in the second video at about minute seven.)

What angers me is that the members of the group say that they have frequently had doctors come in and they have proof that their children were not abused.

The exclusive 45 minute long news exclusive is now available in RTL’s iTunes app. (They move it off site after 7 days.)

The Ansbach Youth Office has maintained in regular contact since the influx of children in 2010. Their visits would present concerns and worries that could not be dissuaded, but were also “not sufficient evidence for the initiation of family law measures” to be submitted. Only now the Family Court and the Youth Office of Nördlingen districts in the  Donau-Ries region received “credible, concrete and actionable information,” showing that the “physical and emotional welfare of the children could be permanently compromised.”
Der Spiegel: “Twelve Tribes”: Police take 40 children from Christian sect in Bavaria

There are 150 German members of the international community of ’12 tribes’ faith – in their own words “Bible in the tradition of early Christianity.”  …The children are taught early on that Africans, Blacks and homosexuals are cursed; and women belong to an inferior race.
RTL: Raid on sect ’12 tribes’ – RTL reporter provides evidence of child abuse

…the children would be “cleansed” by the blows and “freed from the devil.” Strikes would constantly be administered due to varied reasons. It is enough already to be struck, if a child does not pay attention in class…
…there is “ubiquitous, mutual supervision, built on intimidation, by this spying totalitarian system” which makes it impossible to live differently at all, says Kuhnigk.
Der Spiegel: Suspected abuse at Christian Sect: “They live with their children in their own world”

 “[In Germany] Every child has the ” right to a violence-free education “. And “despite many calls and offers of help” the community members would continue to be “disciplined and mentally abusing towards” their children…
… “Mental abuse and isolation has only occurred when the authorities have taken away our children,” says a father.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Those who wish to play are beaten

 Kuhnigk: The children do not have close ties to their parents because they can not protect them. If the parents refuse to,the elders deemed necessary to punish pressure them to give their children over to others to mete it out. The children may not develop individuality. There are no children playing in the yard, fantasy play and free play are prohibited. The children are broken.
Augsburger Allgemeine: Hidden reporter: “I almost cried.”

 …The violence done to the children is “so quiet, so systemic, and planned,” such as torture…
…Also shown is the “Restraining” of the babies with one arm, where a tightly wrapped baby with a black head of hair that can hardly move…
Augsburger Allgemeine: Children of the Twelve Tribes: nearly 100 floggings in two days

…The RTL reporter also was able to procure the special “educational book” of the sect. Here, it refers specifically to physical pain as an integral part of education. Especially for strong-willed children, beating their tails for instruction is recommended.
Augsburger Allgemeine: Spanking as an educational system: Undercover in the Twelve Tribes

“The whole procedure is such that the adult relies on a chair. The child must present themselves to adults then. Either he or she puts their pants down, or it can be pulled down. Then the adults look for a suitable rod with appropriate length and begin to beat the children…
The children are beaten until they say what adults want to hear…   Not a single child has struggled in any form. Anyone who turns away from adults while being beaten, is returned to the ‘right position’ and additionally punished, “said Kuhnigk.
Focus: Incognito reporter in the “Twelve tribes” describes perverse whipping system of the sect

 …a lecture by the cult leader Gene Spriggs in 2000 is documented, among other things. “Our children were brought up with the rod of correction, we do not argue that,” says the gray-haired, bearded man who has tied his shoulder-length hair into a ponytail, in English. “And when we are put in jail for it, then we go to jail, because we know that we are doing right and discipline our children in love.”
Süddeutsche Zeitung: He who spares his rod, hates his son

Against asylum seekers and protesters, the authorities in place practice vigorous crackdowns. But when it comes to the children, when the most vulnerable of society are in danger, the Bavarian courts exhibit boundless patience…
Süddeutsche Zeitung: Embarrassing Failure

I cannot begin to tell you how this breaks my heart.

I know that this is systemic elsewhere, especially in parts of the US. But in a country where children are usually protected?

So many checks and balances broke down in protecting these children.

In a land where spanking and other punitive forms of discipline that include striking a child are outlawed, it’s just unbelievable. To hear in other people’s words what I lived as a child, it just completely validates how I feel about punitive parenting, and how it simply cannot, and does not have a biblical basis whatsoever.

I have sat and written this entire blog post while shaking and having flashbacks of my own childhood and all I can say is that I hope and pray that these parents are given more early childhood education and that their children are not given to them in unsupervised visits until they have proven their mentality and hearts have changed for the better towards their children.

I just cannot imagine giving my children over to someone else to do anything to them. Then again, I am a very protective mother bear, and I never allowed my spirit to be completely broken by my family or their beliefs in punitive discipline.

If there is one thing I could ask tonight, I would ask that you pray for all the children of the Twelve Tribes and do what you can to support the survivors of this awful abuse.

*****

Part Two >

I Love All of You, But Hitler Was Not The One Who Made School Compulsory

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I Love All of You, But Hitler Was Not The One Who Made School Compulsory, By Jennifer Stahl

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Jennifer Stahl’s blog Yeshua, Hineni. It was originally published on May 16, 2013 (and updated on September 22, 2013) with the title, “The German Homeschool Case — The Romeike Family.”

I’m probably not going to earn any brownie points today from any of my readers or family after this post… and I’m sure I know why.

I have been asked repeatedly for my opinions on the Romeike family from Germany that is seeking assistance through the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) for asylum in the USA.

Many people think that because I am a former home-schooler, and especially because I live in Germany (I’ll come home before my children go to school and home-school them, right?) that I will be incensed and defend the family.

However, since the story broke, I have pointed out several inconsistencies, as well as the fact that the Romeike family could pursue legal actions for the laws to change in Germany, take it as high as the highest courts in the EU and even go to another European country that is not restrictive towards homeschoolers rather than lying about Germany on their asylum application.

Many might think I’m overreacting by saying that they lied about Germany — especially since my children’s foray into education is still very fresh and in the non-mandatory stages of compulsory education. Actually, I’ve spent many hours looking into their case (not just today!) and into the German educational system when I entered into it, as well as when I found out that I was pregnant. I’ve asked extensive questions and I’ve been researching all home-school cases friends and families send me that are out of Germany.

Here is the news that the HSLDA is disseminating about the Romeike family right now:

There are four articles I found that sum up every bit of the story very well in a nice tight bow. You can find them hereherehere and here.

You can also find a video in German from a show here that covered the Romeikes’ after they went to the US. This video is shared via the HSLDA, but is originally from a talk show in Germany, which tries to show both sides of the issue.

It bothers me terribly that the main thrust of the case all depends on issues that just throw a monkey wrench in everything. If you want to make a good point, do not invoke Godwin’s law.

I know Wikipedia is not authoritative, but honestly, it’s the best write-up I’ve seen in a very long time (in English) about the German educational system. (see here) I love all of you, but Hitler was not the one who made school compulsory in Germany. Each of the Länder (German states) decided on compulsory education and all had different laws. The goal was that all children, whether poor or rich, had an equal chance at education in a time when many children were removed from school to work at home, or in the fields.

Germany wasn’t really unified until around World War I. Even as the Federal Republic of Germany, each state has its own government, laws and practical application until around World War II.  Compulsory Education was actually put into place by Napoleon and the Prussian Empire.  Some of the best minds about children’s early Education came out of this market in Germany, Austria and Swizerland. (Friedrich FröbelJohann Heinrich Pestalozzi, Rudolf Steiner)

Yes, the Nazis used compulsory education to their own ends. I definitely do not dispute that. The least I expect is a bit of factual reporting. At this point, most of the information that has covered Germany and homeschooling has been full of holes.

School here is completely different. Government here is completely different.  I’m actually finding it very laughable that they are claiming Christian persecution. Germany is in every sense of the word a Christian nation, even if most/many of the actual citizens are not Christians, and the bulk of the Christians are “nominal” at best. (I really hate using that word.) Many are unaffiliated and therefore not even counted due to various reasons of theological difference and not wishing to pay a flat church tax out of their income. (You pay tithes and offerings, we pay church tax [Kirchensteuer])

All public holidays here that are not explicitly listed as Federal holidays, are Christian holidays. (see here) Most of the political parties have a Christian basis and base. (see here)  Many public schools and kindergartens still have religious symbols up. (Crosses, Crucifixes, Mother and Child)

As it stands, if one does not wish to use the public school closes to them, the following options are available:

I can semi understand the concern that the Romeike family may have in regards to sexual education… but at some point someone has to tell all children the facts of life, and about how babies are born, marital relations and that sort of thing. With the hours at school being as few as they are, parents have as much opportunity and much more obligation to disseminate this information than schools do.  I wish I could say all parents feel the same, but they sadly do not.

Depending on one’s school district, what is covered in sex ed will vary from school to school, state to state. Most of the kerfuffle I’ve heard from the US or even the UK in regards to sex education in our schools here, actually center around older initiatives or books that are available in the library, but hardly ever checked out. It makes me wonder what the actual point is of those articles and what is covered in the sexual education. . . if anything much.

I do not understand their apprehension and statements about witchcraft and paganism at school. Neither are at this point recognized religions that have religious coursework in either state, but that could possibly (maybe) change in the future.  For now, you have Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Islamic studies offered. If you are non-religious, you can take a social ethics course instead.

I also do not understand their statements about indoctrination at school. The attitudes here as far as education goes is so far from indoctrination that I find it pitiable that such a statement has been made to American mass media, especially those with a religious bent.  As far as the quality of education, their home state is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Germany.  (I would love to know more, but I live in a neighboring state and am very happy with our educational opportunities.)

There has also been brought up that the family may face fines or prison time for home-schooling. This is only a half truth. If the Romeike family sends their children to school, and  home-school after school hours or on the weekends; they will not be penalized. They also could move anywhere in the EU that home-schooling is still legal while still fighting for legalization here in Germany.

Another argument the Romeike family raises is that their human rights were breached. The current court decisions deny this, and I hope to discuss this further on my blog at some point in the future.

I wish their family no ill will, I only wish to present some facts unavailable to the American public in general.

My home-school experience wasn’t the best, and I know that there are exceptional, awesome home-schoolers out there. I wish all of them the best, but I find cases like these certainly do not help ours, or for us to be better accepted or trusted by society at large. As someone pursuing higher education at the moment, I find it difficult not to speak up.