Appeals Court Reversal Stuns Parents of Boy Seized by the State
Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly is director of international affairs for HSLDA. He and his wife homeschool.
On Monday, December 10, 2012, also International Human Rights Day, a Swedish appeals court reversed a lower court ruling in favor of Annie and Christer Johansson and terminated their parental rights in regard to their son Dominic.
The boy and his parents were on board a jetliner minutes from departing Sweden for Annie’s home country of India when Dominic was seized in June 2009. The reason authorities initially gave for taking Dominic was that he had been homeschooled. During subsequent medical evaluations Dominic was found to have missed some vaccinations and “had cavities” in his teeth. During the first months following his seizure the parents were only permitted to visit Dominic once every two weeks. This quickly became once every five weeks, and then in 2010 all visitations were cut off.
The United States Supreme Court has written that terminating parental rights is the Family Court equivalent of the death penalty. Every party to such an action, the court wrote in Stanley v. Illinois, must be afforded every procedural and substantive due process protection. In American courts this means that clear and convincing evidence, the civil equivalent of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” is necessary before parental rights are terminated. The case of the Johanssons in Sweden demonstrates what can happen when the family is not respected as an integral unit of society.