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.

Alternative Narratives On Germany And Homeschooling: An Introduction

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By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

So much of the “news” one hears these days about Germany and homeschooling comes from the same sources: Fox, The Blaze, World Net Daily, the Christian Post, and WORLD Magazine. Often times it seems like these sources merely copy and paste press releases from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) rather than do their own research. I can also count on one hand how many times they did not bring up Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party or the Gestapo, or encourage their readers to think in terms of xenophobic slurs.

When I wrote my essay about how American-based organizations like HSLDA and the Alliance for Defending Freedom (ADF) supported the Bavarian branch of the Twelve Tribes through the efforts and money of American Christians and homeschoolers, I was struck by the vast differences in coverage between American media and German media. I think, honestly, what I was most struck by was that — there has been an abundance of German media coverage on the homeschool question in Germany over the last decade. While that probably ought not be surprising, it was surprising for this reason: that coverage is almost universally absent in American coverage.

And here is why this is a problem: there are really, really important details in the German media coverage that get conveniently left out of the American media coverage.

Details that can make all the difference in the world in how one perceives individual situations.

I am hoping this week to provide the HA audience and a wider audience with some of this missing information. I also want to encourage Christians, homeschoolers, Americans, and so forth to think beyond the predominant narrative on what is going on in Germany — a narrative that is intimately and methodically constructed by HSLDA itself — and consider other narratives and points of view.

This week HA will not be presenting merely one narrative in opposition to HSLDA’s narrative. Rather, we will be sharing viewpoints from a diversity of sources. Some of us might actually believe Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling is in fact silly, but at the same time believe homeschooling is not a human right. Or we might disapprove of excessive police force against German homeschoolers, but agree with Germany’s almost-ban on homeschooling. Or we might be 100% cool with homeschooling but think it is 100% not cool to use American immigration and asylum policy as a battleground for homeschool politics.

The point this week is not to force any one perspective down your throat. The point is to encourage you to consider more than HSLDA’s perspective — more than the perspective that is allowed to go unquestioned and parroted by Fox, The Blaze, WND, and so forth.

*****

Introducing Jennifer Stahl

As we begin this week on Germany and homeschooling, I am excited to introduce Jennifer Stahl to the Homeschoolers Anonymous audience. Jennifer was homeschooled from the sixth grade forward under the Home School Legal Defense Association umbrella — and she is currently residing in Germany. She has written a number of excellent posts about German homeschool controversies on her own blog.

As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany, Jennifer’s voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.

As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany,, Jennifer Stahl's voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.
As a former HSLDA kid currently living in Germany,, Jennifer Stahl’s voice is a fascinating and important one to consider.

Here is a little bit about her: Jennifer was raised in a US Military home where she lived in six different states and in two foreign countries before getting married and moving to Germany. She is the oldest of three children and her school background varied greatly, including six years of home-schooling. Jennifer’s faith took a different direction in the last decade, towards Messianic Judaism, which has been a source of contention with her family’s fundamentalist background. After moving overseas and having her first child, she began questioning the doctrine that children are inherently sinful beings who need to be beaten regularly, obey instantly with a happy heart and never question their religious and household authority. She has also been unpacking much of the harm of purity culture, spiritual abuse, and anti-feminism while navigating cross-cultural norms. In processing these issues, she came to realize how much doctrine had been passed off as “Gospel Truth” and began blogging about this late last year.

You can follow Jennifer on her blog at Yeshua, Hineni and on Twitter at @HadassahSukkot. She was recently interviewed about Christian feminism on From Two to One.

*****

Since the Bavarian Twelve Tribes were recently filmed committing child abuse and Dirk and Petra Wunderlich were recently reunited with their children, and HSLDA members have been flooding the Germany Embassy’s Facebook page, there are likely a lot of Germans wondering about this American organization called HSLDA and about homeschooling and the like. So to start this week, Kathryn Brightbill has written “a quick and dirty primer on HSLDA,” so that interested individuals can learn more.

The battle over homeschooling in Germany has raged for well over a decade. There have been many high profile cases, ranging from the Twelve Tribes (Zwölf Stämme) to the Paderborn Seven to Melissa Busekros to the Romeike, Wunderlich, and Dudek families. Most of these high profile cases involve some form of fundamentalist Christianity, with evolution and sex education as motivating factors for homeschooling. They also involve the hand of an American organization like HSLDA or ADF — or a German-based affiliate, like Schulunterricht zu Hause and Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit.

Since it is unlikely this battle is going away any time soon, the least we can do is understand the situation and get our facts straight.

I hope that this week’s series will aid in that endeavor.