On September 21, 2010, Swedish Administrative Court Chief Judge Peter Freudenthal handed down his decision in the case of Domenic Johansson of Gotland, Sweden, dashing the hopes of his parents for reunification with their son, who has been kept in foster care for over one year. Dominic was seized by Swedish authorities from the plane he and his parents had boarded as they were moving to India, his mother’s home country. Authorities cited untreated cavities in the boy’s teeth, failure to vaccinate, and homeschooling as reasons for taking him into custody.
After multiple appeals, Judge Freudenthal has upheld the decision of Swedish social services officials, who are the engineers behind the case. Domenic has been kept from his parents since June 25, 2009, and has only been allowed to visit with them once every five weeks with a supervised 15-minute telephone call once every two weeks. It has become increasingly apparent that the social workers have no real intention of reuniting this family, and that they have simply transferred Domenic from the Johanssons to the foster family. Domenic is now in the public school system.
Friends, family, and a university professor of psychology testified that the Johanssons are more than capable of parenting Domenic and caring for him. Despite this testimony, and the willingness of the family to do whatever the state wants them to do, Judge Freudenthal decided to go along with the assertions of the social workers that Domenic was better off in the care of the state. Meanwhile, Freudenthal spent almost as much time discussing the fees the appointed lawyers would collect as he did explaining the rationale for the state’s continued custody of Domenic.
Ruby Harrold-Claesson, a noted international human rights lawyer and president of the Nordic Committee for Human Rights (nkmr.org), represented Christer Johansson before being removed from the case on the motion of Eva Ernston, Domenic’s appointed attorney. Harrold-Claesson has developed a practice of fighting Swedish social services, a system she calls increasingly “evil.”
“I have never in 20 years of practice seen a case more badly handled,” says Harrold-Claaesson. “This family has been so traumatized that they may never recover. The Swedish government has grossly violated this family’s human rights, both under Swedish law and under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). Under the ECHR people have the right to leave their country. But in this case the social services took this poor little boy and prevented him from leaving with his parents. He is being held a hostage—essentially kidnapped by the Swedish government. It is an absolute embarrassment for Sweden and for every person involved in this case. Each person, from the social workers to the judges, should be ashamed of their behavior and their continuing callousness towards this family. They all must be brought to justice for their crimes against the Johansson family.”
Attorney Michael Donnelly, director for international relations for HSLDA, agrees.
“It is revolting to read the opinions of these judges and attorneys, who continue to allow and support this inexcusable and traumatic separation of this family,” says Donnelly. “This is an object lesson for anyone who is concerned about what can happen when the state becomes all powerful and unnecessarily invades the sphere of the family. Overbearing bureaucratic paternalism and a sense of personal power are driving Domenic’s forced alienation from his parents.”
Donnelly notes that the opinions of the Swedish judges are questionable.
“I’ve read the opinions, and there is no evidence that points to the need for continued state custody,” he explains. “Even in the face of overwhelming evidence from credible witnesses that show that the parents are able to take care of Dominic and that refute the social workers absurd allegations that Mr. Johansson is ‘narcissistic.’ This case is so egregious, that the only explanation for the decisions is that judges and social services authorities are simply trying to cover their tracks because they know they have grossly violated the basic human rights of this family.”
HSLDA and ADF, along with the Nordic Committee for Human Rights, have teamed up to bring this case to the European Court of Human rights, where urgent “interim orders” have been requested. As of today, there has been no word from the court, even though the usual time for a response has passed.
Roger Kiska, European counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, notes the delay is concerning.
“In most cases I’ve had a response from the court by this time,” says Kiska. “This is especially true when we are asking for urgent interim orders due to the serious nature of the violation. It is very concerning that the court has not responded to our application.”
Kiska continues, “This case is very troubling in light of the most recent rejection by Judge Freudenthal. The opinions in the Johansson case reflects an underlying attempt by the Swedish state to conform Domenic to the bureaucrats’ image of a child, rather than respecting the right of the family and the parents, and even the right of the child to be with his family.“
This tragic case reflects what happens when a socialist bureaucracy is bent upon turning out cookie-cutter children, rather than respecting the individual differences of individuals and families. Even if you believe every single allegation that the social services authorities have made, as outlined by Judge Freudenthal, the evidence falls far short of the dramatic intervention they brought upon this family and the continuing harm perpetrated by this continued separation. I’m embarrassed for Sweden and hope that we will be able to help this poor family reunite and attempt to recover from this horrible tragedy.”
In his decision, the judge stated that eight months after the verdict of the Administrative Court of Appeal it is necessary for the state to continue its care, because there was much to “recover.” The judge adopted the facts as offered by the social council that Domenic’s being homeschooled “resulted in delays of several years in knowledge and connections with peers and other people.” and that he likes to “play with younger children.” The judge’s opinion notes that the social workers argue that the past issues regarding Dominic—not being vaccinated prior to their attempt to move to India, that he had some unaddressed cavities and was homeschooled—have deep impact on the case. In spite of the fact that all of these issues have been corrected, and that the parents indicate a willingness to cooperate with social services, the social workers have decided that because the family made these decisions this is proof that they are incapable of parenting Dominic.
What this really means, of course, is that the social workers believe that Dominic should not be raised by his parents simply because the state has a different opinion of how children should be raised. Regrettably, the state has the power to force Domenic into the upbringing that they believe is best for him. Sadly, the decision by the social workers is being supported by the entire Swedish administrative and judicial system.
American homeschoolers can view this abuse of authority as a foreshadowing of the kinds of issues we would face if the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child were to be implemented in the United States. There are already numerous cases every year of state bureaucrats attempting to, and, in some cases with the cooperation of American judges, substituting their own decisions over that of competent parents. These cases often result in the involuntary separation of families which result in great trauma to both the children and their parents.
HSLDA calls on Sweden to return Domenic to his parents. Sweden’s treatment of Christer, Annie, and Domenic Johansson are reprehensible and do not uphold the standards of freedom and due process that ought to be the hallmarks of a Western nation. We ask our members and friends to remember this family in their prayers that they will be able to persevere in the face of this overwhelming loss at the hands of their own government under such outrageous circumstances.