Archive for the 'Europe' Category

Why The German Response To Home Schooling Confuses Me

            I have some trouble understanding just what troubles German juvenile officials so much when it comes to the issue of parents taking an active, daily role in the education of their children.  They are fighting too hard for it to merely be something that they are uncomfortable allowing to happen.

            If they merely were uncomfortable it would not make sense to insist that parents do not have the right to control the education of their children to the point of moving from a position of discrimination to a position of persecution against these parents and their children.

            I do not use the word persecution lightly and I know that there are many who will take exception to its use here.  When parents face heavy fines it is discrimination in my book.  When parents are in court defending their right to control the education of their children it is discrimination to me.

            When, however, parents are serving short sentences in the local jails without the benefit of a hearing and without legal appeal it becomes persecution in my book.  When those same parents have their children taken into state custody just because they are home schooling their children it goes from discrimination to persecution.

            That is what is happening in Germany.

            The Germans gave us the Reformation.  They have long been on the forefront of cultural changes in a positive way.  There are many things we must be grateful to the Germans for, including their incredible engineering skills and their scientific work that lead to some of the greatest breakthroughs in technology and medicine that we have ever seen.

            Something has happened though.  I have a couple of photos that sum up the confusion I am experiencing much better than words ever could.

            The first photo is one I personally took during the 2009 Octoberfest in Munich, Germany.  I was there just a few days after I had experienced a moving meal with the Schimidt family in nearby Otting, Germany.  Just before we ate they offered a family prayer to bless the food and our time.

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Schmidt family praying before lunch

            The confusion comes from the fact that one of these activities is highly acceptable in modern Germany.  The other has begun to lead to many problems for families in Germany—particularly those families who are trying to control the education of their children.

            Maybe the problem is that God is okay as long as we do not take Him too seriously.  That is a problem in American as well as Germany.


Preparing For The New Year

This has been a very tough year for the IHRG and me.  We have fought hard in the battles we had, but it has been a struggle to keep everything going forward.  The economic crisis has meant that we have to do more on less.  It meant that we had to move some activities to next year that we wanted to do this year.

I am not discouraged however.  Already we have ended the year strong.  We have a couple of cases that are being developed, one in Norway and one in Germany.  We are working on a case in Greece that is still not ready for public discussion.  We are working to protect the rights of missionaries at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia and at the World Cup Soccer Tournament in South Africa. 

I also have the opportunity to go to Lebanon and Syria to meet with key Christian leaders there.  Please start praying now for the team as we prepare for this trip.  There are many issues facing believers in the Middle East and we want to be able to protect them as much as possible.

We are also preparing to meet with two groups of church planters in Europe in January.  We want to meet these men and women, let them know that the IHRG is there to help them if they have issues regarding their religious freedom and the right to set up and operate in Eastern and Western Europe.  This is what we do.

This is just what is before me sitting here at Christmas.  It does not include what will happen as we move into the new year and other issues unfold.  We must continue to be there.

In addition to everything listed above, we are planning to host a conference in Germany for lawyers and other Christian leaders to develop a strategic plan for moving forward protecting religious freedom in Europe. 

We are also continuing to move forward with planning for developing a jail chaplains program for the Czech Republic.

All in all you can see that the IHRG has a very ambitious agenda for the coming year.  We hope that you will be a part of our support team.  You can pray and you can help support our work through tax deductible donations made at  You can also join our mailing list by requesting to be added.  Send me an email at

Schmidt’s “have their day in court”

Today began sunny and bright in Nördlingen, Germany.  This town is part of Germany’s Romantic Road and has the history to bear it up.  I would like to say it was by careful planning on my part, but it was only the providence of God that our hotel was literally thirty feet from the entrance to the court, the Amsgericht, where the Schmidt family was this day fighting for the right to keep custody of their youngest son, Aaron.

Aaron is fourteen and has two more years left of high school.  He is a normal well rounded young man who speaks English well, but seldom does because he is shy around the Americans.  He plays on a local football club and is quick to smile.  I was with Aaron right before the hearing.  He was calm and seemed convinced that everything would be fine.

I had asked permission to attend the court hearing as an interested person and a friend of the family.  The judge was happy to have me in the courtroom as long as I did not broadcast her name on the Internet.  The Jugendamt, however, was a different matter.  Gabriele Eckermann represented the parents in the hearing.  Johannes Hildebrandt represented the interests of Aaron.

The Jugendamt asked if I was associated with home schooling.  When Gabriele answered honestly that I was—I was one of the attorneys who filed the notorious Konrad case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France back in 2003—the Jugendamt protested my being allowed in the courtroom for the hearing and so I was banned from enjoying the proceedings.  Had I been allowed in the courtroom my lack of working German would have kept me from enjoying the proceedings, so it was a trade off.

The first thing the judge did was asked to meet privately with Aaron and his attorney.  In itself this is a big victory.  In one case it took hours of arguments from the lawyers to have the attorney be permitted to be with the child.

After examining Aaron for herself the judge continued the hearing.  The Jugendamt asked to have Aaron psychologically tested, they naturally assume that there is something wrong with him because he is home schooled.  Johannes objected to the test stating that there was no evidence that there was anything wrong with Aaron and the court agreed.

The judge’s final decision today was that the local school should give Aaron a test to see if he is academically okay.  Pending the results of that test all the attorneys agree that the court will leave custody with the parents—instead of transferring custody to the State!

This is a big partial victory.  This is not the first time it has happened, but it is rare, that the court has not ruled that home schooling is against the law and therefore nothing further needed to be done other than putting the child in school.

This is one of the first times that a German court has intimated that they would not stop the home schooling as long as the child was being educated properly.

This is a huge victory in the making.  If we can get this court to continue and more courts to agree that home schooling is not, in itself, harmful, then we can begin to make a dent in the legal system that is currently punishing parents for exercising their legal right to control the education of their children.

After the hearing we went to a nearby restaurant to have tea and discuss the decision.  Gabriele and I had a discussion about the controls the State is trying to put on children in Germany and America.  There is no doubt that one of the goals of Germany, and the new American approach to government, is to control the thinking of the children in a way that is more aligned with the State rather than with the individual families.

That is why this fight is so important.

For His Kingdom,


The Beauty of Christianity

Christine Amanpour has a special that is airing on CNN.  It is about winning the hearts and minds of the next generation of Muslims.  In the special she asks a very interesting question that highlights the difference between Christianity and Islam.  She looks at the parent of a young Muslim being raised in Gaza and asks, “How do you teach them not to hate.”

I haven’t actually seen the program, only the advertisement which CNN International is running ad nausea.  Every time the question is asked I turn to the television and answer—I talk to the television, it relieves a lot of tension and is very fun—“It is easy, you don’t teach them not to hate, you simply don’t teach them to hate.”  This is the core difference between the violence that is being foster by Islam and the love of Christianity.

Mohammed conquered the world with an army and the sword.  Jesus has ruled His world with twelve uneducated souls and love.  When a couple of His uneducated souls wanted to call down fire from heaven Jesus refused permission—His mission was love not control.   When John reported to Jesus that others, who were not follow with the disciples, were casting out demons in Your name, Jesus’ response was simple.  It gives great insight into His thinking and the love with which He approached His mission, “He who is not against us is for us.”

Jesus’ mission was one of inclusion rather than exclusion.  He came to seek and save that which was lost.  He was not seeking to control the world, but show the world the love that God has for His greatest creation, man.

The mission of the Christian Church, Jesus’ body on this earth, is to love people without any strings attached.  Christian Churches start schools, hospitals, even programs to feed and cloth the poor for one reason—to show the lost how much God loves them.

I work with people around the world who show this love without strings.  In Cologne, Germany a Church has set up “stores” to provide the poor with good cheap clothing and furniture.  For one Euro a person can get a full hot meal with a drink.  If you don’t have a Euro, the meal is free.  The whole purpose of the outreach is to provide hope to the hopeless, to minister the love of God in a community that seldom sees love of any kind.

I work with another man in Greece who feeds the refugees coming in from Northern Africa.  They are mostly Muslims and no one, not even their own people are doing anything to reach them.  This man provides free food and fellowship to them.  What is his purpose?  He is personally showing the love of Jesus to a people who desperately need to see that love more than they need to hear about it.

This is exactly what Jesus did when He went about doing good, preaching the Gospel of the Good News to the poor.  Jesus went further than merely preaching the Good News of the Gospel to the poor, however, He also met their needs.  Their needs included healing the sick, the blind, the deaf, the lame, virtually anyone who a need that could be met by love was introduced to love through the preaching of the Gospel and the healing of the sick.

These were not acts of people coming to God, these were acts of God coming to people—meeting them where they were and then giving them hope.

So, to get back to the original thought of how do we teach the children not to hate, that is a question that is not asked in Christian circles.

Fortunately for us, the answer is not complicated.  Hate, just like love, is passed down from generation to generation.  It is not a question of teaching children not to hate—it is a question of not teaching children to hate.

It will take a change of heart.  Just like Martin Luther King, Jr.  and Gandhi, Islam must make a decision that changes comes through love and tolerance, not through continuing to pass hate and anger on from generation to generation.

That is not likely to happen you say, and you are likely right.  That is one of the reasons that Christians have the moral standing order to bring the Gospel of the Good News to the world through missions of love, hope, and compassion.

The world will not change by itself.  Hate will not disappear by itself, there are too many people making too much money nurturing the culture of hate. 

Hate will only disappear when love has come and the Good News of the Gospel is preached and lived throughout the world.

You are the best hope for destroying the legacy of hate.

Why You Should Care About Home Schooling

The short answer is that at its core, the right of parents to educate their children is a religious freedom issue.

Most people get lost in their personal feelings about home school when we discuss the issue of home schooling in Germany.  It is easy to do. It is likely that we all know a home school family and we either think they are doing a good job or that they are not doing what they should for their families.

It is important, however, that we find a way to put aside our personal feelings about home schooling when we look at the international movement.  I believe that one of the most important requirements of a Christian is to raise their children in the fear of the Lord.  We have a great moral responsibility with our children.  If they are lost there is little hope for the coming generations.

Many school systems in America and abroad are becoming more secular and more hostile to the Christian faith.  This hostility is played out in a number of ways.  It might be a resistance to any type of Christian faith being shared amongst students.  It might also be a curriculum based not just on a lack of faith, but on a hostility to faith.

Modern man is turning further and further from God.  The public education system is beholden to the government.  Governments around the world are moving further and further away from any foundation of Christian faith.  This means that their school systems will, by design and involuntarily, move further from any foundation of Christian faith.

We first saw this in America with the debate over the teaching of evolution in the public schools.  The original request by the evolutionists was to grant them equal access to the students on their theories.  They turned equal access into access only for evolution.  The system that now exists is one that denies any belief in God.

The fight that is accruing in courtrooms around the country is a battle to keep out the simple belief that maybe, just maybe, there is a creator of some type who moved the process of evolution along.  Even this is unacceptable to evolutionists.

Many schools are also teaching sex education from a purely secular point of view.  This means that any teaching regarding abstinence is not allowed, as this is considered an antiquated religious view of sexual education.

Then there is a lot of new age religious teaching.  It might be a teaching regarding spiritual matters without a Christian base—something as simple as controlling the environment in a room by the proper placement of the furniture.  Now, I believe the furniture should be arranged properly, but that does not add a spiritual power to the room.  It could be teaching regarding other occultist beliefs that might seem harmless to some.

In America we have the ability to opt our children out of these questionable teaching sessions.  In Europe most schools do not allow the parents to opt out their children from questionable teaching that contradicts the core beliefs of the family.  There is a belief that the children belong to the State when they come onto school property and the parents do not have any right to question the educational choices of the State.

There is something going on here that is much deeper than merely home schooling.  Most of the home school families I know in Europe and in America are home schooling because of a sincerely-held religious belief.  They believe God has ordained for them to teach their own children.

As to that end, the German Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights both give parents the right to control the education of their children.

So you see, the education of children is a parental right that is often guaranteed by governments.  This battle is not merely about home schooling, it goes much deeper than that.  The battle is over whether the State or the family has the right to determine what the children will be taught.  At its core the question is are children wards of the state, or wards of their parents.

It is a much deeper right than merely the right to educate. 

It is a right that goes to the very right of parents to train their children in the ways they should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.

Schmidt Family Update From The Road In Germany

Let me begin by saying that recently a new German friend of mine expressed concern that my reports on German home school families made it sound like I thought Germany was evil. 

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I have loved the German people since I was in the third grade, my next door neighbors were from Germany.  The father was a professor of German at Berry College and I learned to like the sound of English spoken with a Bavarian accent and the sharp sounds of German spoken by a native.

Germany has given much to the world, including the Reformation.  They are a wonderful people and I have never experienced anything other than great hospitality from the people and the government.

With that said, let me update you on our trip.

David and I landed in Stuttgart, Germany on Monday—just hours before a Lufthansa flight with 73 people on board made an emergency landing on the same runway.  No one was killed; one was injured, when the plane landed amidst flames without its landing gear.

We immediately began a four train trip to Otting, Germany where the Schmidt family lives.  In addition to the legal help the IHRG is giving to the family we have been blessed to work with CBN developing a television report on the plight of the parents and their youngest child.  Right now the family faces about 9000 Euros in fines.  Next week they have a hearing in family court where the Jugendamt, Youth Welfare Office is seeking to have legal custody of the 14 year old son of Hans and Petra Schmidt taken from the parents and given to the Jugendamt.  This is a legal tactic that has been used in Germany before.  In fact, if you remember Melissa Busekros, this is the same thing that happened in her case.

In Melissa’s case this lead to Melissa being taken from her family by the police and placed in a psychiatric ward and eventual a youth home for girls for nearly three months.  The parents had very limited access to their daughter until she returned home on her on.

The Schimdts are facing the same predicament.  If the court grants the transfer of custody to the State it means that at any time afterward the police could arrive at the Schmidt home, during the day or even in the middle of the night to take their youngest child away.

What a terrible pressure for parents to be forced to live under by their own government.  There are no accusations of child abuse, no accusations of neglect.  The only problem with the Schmidts is that they are exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to control the education of their own children. 

In Otting this right is guaranteed by the Bavarian State Constitution, the German Federal Constitution, and the European Convention on Human Rights.  Three times it is guaranteed, yet here we are on the last leg of a lengthy legal journey.

I was surprised to find Hans and Petra peacefully dealing with their situation.  They have set their face like flint to stand strong no matter what happens.  With great resolve they told CBN that they will not retreat from their fight to raise their child according to their faith, without interference from the State.

Both Hans and Petra looked into the camera’s eye, with great effort to control the emotion rising in them, and told us that they knew that God would stand with them—no matter what happens next week or thereafter.

I wish I had that type of courage.  I am here as a Christian attorney standing with them, but my family is not on the line.  I will return home to my “normal” life.  They will stay home and fight.

One of the nicest benefits of my job is that for two days I was invited into the Schmidt home.  I was told to act like I was home.  I was given coffee, tea, Coke Light (the German version of Diet Coke), pastries, and a meal of sauerkraut and homemade bratwurst straight off the grill served with cheese, bread, and potatoes grow in their backyard garden.

I left, after two days, encouraged that we have brothers and sisters in our faith who calmly face the persecution of a government willing to take their children away.

I am returning next week to be there at the hearing.  Hopefully, the court will allow me to enter the courtroom and observe the hearing.  Regardless, I will be there to encourage the family and their attorneys.  We are helping with the cost of their legal defense.

Check back later for an update on this case.  Thank you for all you do, praying and supporting our work financially.  We really do understand that without your prayers and support we could not be there for these families in their time of great need.  Because of your prayers you are here with us, in spirit supporting us.

Hearing Set In Germany For Schmidt Family

Our team is headed to Germany in a couple of weeks.  We have a four or five goals for this trip, but the most important goals are to help the 700 Club’s reporter put together a piece on the Schmidt family.  This report is important because it will expose the persecution that many families are facing in Germany from overzealous school and government officials.  It will also put pressure on those local officials who have decided that they can run roughshod over the rights of this incredible Christian family whose only “fault” is that they have chosen to home school their own children in Germany.

 As a result of this decision the family has been fined over $10,000 by the government.  As if that were not enough, they have a hearing scheduled for 22 September 2009.  This hearing is to determine whether the Schmidts keep the legal custody of their one child remaining in school or have the court take that custody and give it to the Youth Welfare Office.

 This is a critical human rights battle and we must be there in order to keep the pressure up.  We have a great team of lawyers preparing to handle this case.  Johannes Hildebrandt is a skilled advocate for families like the Schmidts.  Also, Gabriele and Armin Eckermann have led the fight in the courts of Germany for years.  Together we will do everything in our power to see that the Schmidt family has a chance to educate their son according to their sincerely-held beliefs.

 I will be in the court room as an international human rights observer, making sure the court knows that the world is watching what happens in Germany.  Already we have seen states like California try to import a German style treatment of home school families.  Sweden is currently looking at a law that could be used to make home schooling all but illegal.

 Why is this so important?  It is not just about home schooling.  The real issue is the right of parents to control the upbringing of their children.  One of the fundamental rights of parents is the right to educate their children according to the dictates of their own religious beliefs.  If the state has the right to control education regarding the reading and math curriculum without question, they will soon exercise the right to control the religious education as well.  This is a real threat in an ever increasing secular society.

 Stand with us in prayer!  These trips cost about three hundred dollars a day for two people.  We travel as inexpensively as possible.  Your gift to the ministry will help us make sure we can be there for the Schmidts and others when they need the IHRG!

Books Worth Reading

C.S. LEWIS--Mere Christianity; CLAIRE BERLINSKI--Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Crisis, Too; BRUCE BAWER--While Europe Slept: How Radical islam is Destroying the West from Within; DAVID LEVERING LEWIS--God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215; THOMAS SCHIRRMACHER--The Persecution of Christians Concerns Us All; PHILIP JENKINS--God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis

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