CULTURE DIGEST: Facing persecution, Swedish homeschoolers seek American help

Baptist Press
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Posted: Feb 24, 2012 5:52 PM
CULTURE DIGEST: Facing persecution, Swedish homeschoolers seek American help
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Swedish homeschoolers are seeking help from their American counterparts as they face persecution including harassment, fines and separation of families for not sending their children to government-sanctioned schools.

"We ask our fellow home educators to email the Swedish authorities on a mass scale about the situation in Sweden," Jonas Himmelstrand, president of the Swedish Association for Home Education, said.

"We want to let Swedish officials know that their actions have drawn international attention. Please write to the Swedish Embassy in your country on our behalf," Himmelstrand said.

More than a dozen families have fled Sweden, according to The New American Feb. 17. Himmelstrand's family is in exile in Finland, facing fines of more than $26,000 in Sweden for choosing to educate their children at home.

"It makes me really angry that a country calling itself democratic can treat its people that way," Himmelstrand said. His family left behind his elderly mother as well as the children's extracurricular activities such as dancing and theater.

The U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association and the Alliance Defense Fund have filed a brief in a Swedish court on behalf of the Himmelstrands.

"Homeschooling is legal in the United States and in many other countries only after decades of tumultuous legislative and legal conflicts," Michael Donnelly of HSLDA said.

"Swedish families are now fighting for their basic rights and are looking for support from other freedom lovers abroad. I am asking all of my fellow citizens to join me in supporting the Himmelstrands and other families in Sweden who want to homeschool," Donnelly said.

S.D. LEGISLATURE ENCOURAGES BIBLE IN SCHOOLS -- South Dakota legislators have passed a resolution supporting the academic, "non-devotional" teaching of the Bible in public schools.

The state Senate and House of Representatives declared encouragement for all five school districts in South Dakota to teach lessons "that help students become familiar with the content, characters, and narratives of the Bible and to include in such courses an awareness of the role the Bible has played in the development of literature, art, music, culture, and public discourse."

Legislators intended in part to reassure school districts that they could teach the Bible without violating the First Amendment, the Rapid City Journal reported Jan. 30. Because it's a resolution, though, the measure does not have the force of law. It simply expresses the opinion of the legislature.

ALA. JUSTICES POINT TO ROE'S WEAKNESS -- The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that a mother may pursue a wrongful death claim on behalf of her unborn child from conception.

In a concurring opinion, four justices criticized the U.S. Supreme Court's reasoning on viability -- when the unborn baby can survive outside the womb -- in its 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion, which legalized abortion.

Alabama's justices ruled that Amy Hamilton could go forward with a lawsuit after her son, who had not reached the point of viability, was stillborn in 2005, according to LifeSiteNews.com. The state Supreme Court overturned a lower court, which decided she could not pursue a wrongful death claim because her child was nonviable.

The high court rejected that reasoning, which was based on Roe, and quoted one of its own decisions from 1973, which found "from the moment of conception, the fetus or embryo is not a part of the mother, but rather has a separate existence within the body of the mother," LifeSite News reported.

Associate Justice Tom Parker, who wrote the court's decision, also said in a concurring opinion that Roe's viability standard does not apply in areas of the law other than abortion.

"Medical advances since Roe have conclusively demonstrated that an unborn child is a unique human being at every stage of development," Parker wrote in the concurring opinion. "Roe's viability rule is neither controlling nor persuasive here and should be rejected by other states until the day it is overruled by the United States Supreme Court."

Americans United for Life said the Alabama high court's unanimous decision "is the most recent example of how state courts and state legislatures have given increasing legal protection to the unborn child from conception in state criminal and tort law."

David Smolin, a professor at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., said the debate about the viability of the unborn child will pose difficult questions for abortion rights advocates.

"It is philosophically, morally and ethically problematic to consider a human as a person for some things and not for others," Smolin told The Huntsville (Ala.) Times.

TRIALS SET FOR ABORTION DOCTORS FACING MURDER CHARGES -- Trials for two abortion doctors indicted for the murders of late-term unborn babies will be held this summer in Maryland.

Steven Brigham, who has operated abortion clinics in four states, will be tried June 4-15 while Nicola Riley will stand trial beginning June 27 and concluding July 18, LifeNews.com reported Feb. 16.

Brigham has been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, five counts of second-degree murder and a count of conspiracy to commit murder, according to The Baltimore Sun. Riley has been indicted on a count each of first-degree murder, second-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, The Sun reported.

It appears to be the first time Maryland's fetal homicide law has been used against an abortion doctor, according to the newspaper.

Police raided Brigham's clinic in Elkton, Md., in August 2010 while investigating a botched abortion and uncovered frozen aborted babies as much as 35 weeks' gestation.

In addition to Maryland, Brigham has operated abortion clinics in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

OKLA. SENATE DEFINES PERSONHOOD -- The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that would define personhood as beginning at conception.

Senators voted 34-8 for the measure, which says the state's laws will recognize that unborn babies possess "at every stage of development all the rights, privileges, and immunities available to other persons, citizens, and residents of this state." The House of Representatives also is expected to pass the bill.

Tony Lauinger, chairman of Oklahomans for Life, applauded the Senate's Feb. 15 action.

"The Personhood Act is a strong, clear statement that it is the policy of the State of Oklahoma to protect innocent children," he said in a written statement. "It lays the foundation for legal protections for children in the womb to the fullest extent permitted under U.S. Supreme Court precedents.

"There is great educational value in a law such as the Personhood Act. Most citizens instinctively respect our laws. Many equate what is legal with what is right. Our laws serve an essential purpose in teaching, in guiding our actions."

Sen. Brian Crain, R.-Tulsa, the bill's sponsor, said it would not affect Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion throughout the country. He also said it would not bar birth control methods or in vitro fertilization, the Tulsa World reported.

WASH. HOUSE APPROVES ABORTION WITH MATERNITY CARE -- The Washington state House of Representatives has passed a bill that will require health insurance plans to cover abortions if they provide maternity coverage.

On Feb. 13, the House voted 52-46 for the controversial measure. The Senate has yet to act on the legislation.

Abortion rights advocates praised the action, but pro-lifers decried the proposal.

"To mandate that we violate our conscience is tyranny," said Dan Kennedy, chief executive officer of Human Life of Washington, according to The Seattle Times. "There's no subtle or soft way to put the truth."

The state has a "conscience clause" law that permits insurance plans sponsored by religious organizations to be exempt from paying for abortions, The Times reported.

CARE NET, HEARTBEAT LAUNCH SEPARATE HELP LINES -- Care Net and Heartbeat International, the country's leading networks of pregnancy care centers, have begun operating separate help lines for women seeking help.

After sharing a joint help line for more than eight years, Care Net and Heartbeat started operating separate toll-free lines Feb. 16.

Care Net's new line is 1-800-395-HELP (4357). Its outreach is operating with the name Pregnancy Decision Line.

Heartbeat's new line is 1-800-712-HELP (4357). Its outreach's name is Option Line, and its website is www.OptionLine.org.

Spanish-language help is available through both numbers.

"At this point in time, the magnitude of the challenge, as well as the unique strengths of Heartbeat and Care Net, make two ventures, rather than one, the most effective course for the future," according to Heartbeat.

Care Net and Heartbeat served more than 1.5 million people through their joint help line and anticipate continued collaboration in the future.

Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Erin Roach and Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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