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November 19, 2010

Urgent Prayer Needed: German Family Ordered to Court

Thomas and Marit Schaum, a German couple who have homeschooled their eight children for over a decade, were ordered to appear in court November 22, 2010. However, the court date has been delayed until January.

Although three of their eight children are no longer compulsory school age, “our authorities couldn’t care less,” states fellow German homeschool father Jürgen Dudek. Thomas Schaum recently spent several nights in prison for the family’s decision to homeschool. Now authorities are attempting to force the family to submit to state control via the court system.

We previously reported on the Dudek family, whom the German authorities doggedly pursued and persecuted with stiff fines and threats of prison. In July 2008, a judge sentenced Mr. and Mrs. Dudek to 90 days in jail each. This prison sentence overturned a previous ruling from a lower court that fined the family 900 euros (about $1,200). While an appeals court later overturned the couple’s jail sentences, they were found guilty under the German state of Hessen’s criminal law and fined 120 euros (about $160) in November 2009. When the family declined to pay the fine, a court officer came to demand payment. The officer took money he found in their kitchen cashbox and further threatened to take away the children’s musical instruments for payment.

The Schaum family anticipates that their court appearance could result in a similarly hefty fine or jail sentence. The family has been in and out of court since 2002, although the authorities left them alone for several years. Officials began persecuting them again in 2008 and 2009, but then halted their case entirely until the courts ruled on the Dudek case. After the courts rejected the Dudek’s appeal of their sentence, authorities returned to the Schaums. The Oberlandesgericht, a German court between the regional and federal level, scheduled a new sentencing hearing.

The aggressive Jugendamt, German Child Protective Agency, has visited the Schaums repeatedly in recent months and has already given them a number of fines to shoulder.

Both the Schaums and the Dudeks reside in the German region of Hessen. Out of a population of approximately six million, the families are the only homeschoolers. Jürgen Dudek shares that the Schaum’s are Christians who lived in the former GDR (Communist East Germany), so “they’ve had their share of experience with a ‘real’ totalitarian regime.” The Schaum and Dudek families received word that the local Schulamt—German Offices of Education—and even the State Ministry of Education fear that the fierce resistance of these two families will spread. It seems that this unfounded fear of homeschooling motivates the authorities’ hard-line attitude.

Please remember this family in your prayers. They have bravely resisted all previous attempts by the state to push them out of their homeland. Join Mr. Dudek in his prayer: “May the Lord give them strength and courage to stand up this time as well and boldly proclaim that they won’t give in to state pressure.”