For anyone interested in the international influence of Christian Right and the Christian homeschool movement, the recent revelations of child abuse in the Twelve Tribes sect, or German policy toward homeschooling, all of which I touched on slightly in an article earlier this week, I have a real treat for you. Ryan Stollar has produced a gem of journalism connecting the dots and digging up links and information from the past decade or so. He has titled his piece “How American Homeschoolers Enabled and Funded German Child Abuse: The Real Story Behind the Religious Right and the Twelve Tribes.”
I’m going to quote from the beginning here, but the piece is long and rich with detail, and anyone interested should give it a thorough reading.
“Without the assistance of American homeschoolers, these advancements would not have been possible.”
~ Homeschool Legal Defense Association, concerning German legal association Schulunterricht zu Hause
Last week, German police raided a monastery and farm belonging to a religious cult in Bavaria. They removed 40 children on allegations of child abuse. While the event was originally portrayed by the cult as well as American right-wing news sources as religious persecution, that portrayal was quickly proven wrong. Video evidence of cruel and systematic abuse of children surfaced.
Some homeschool advocates originally attempted to chalk this up as another example of “German intolerance” of homeschooling. German homeschool advocate Jörg Großelümern, who leads the HSLDA-allied Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit (or Network for Freedom in Education), had brought the situation to the attention of Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA, the U.S.-based homeschool lobbying organization. Großelümern alleged that “the authorities want to create a fait accompli because school holidays will end next week in Bavaria and their private school is not approved by the state.” Farris responded in turn, “Thanks so much for the info and for your leadership and courage.”
When evidence surfaced of real and horrifice abuse, however, these homeschool advocates immediately distanced themselves from the cult. Großelümern backpedaled: ”I didn’t know what was going on behind the curtain of this sect. They didn’t tell the truth and things must be judged differently now.”
Farris added that, “My sources were wrong,” Which makes sense, since his source was Großelümern.
People can, and do, make mistakes. People can have lapses of judgment. But the elephant in the room is how a German homeschool leader like Großelümern, and an international homeschool advocate like Farris, would not first wait to find out what was “going on behind the curtain.” It is slightly unsettling that their gut reactions to allegations of child abuse in a group universally recognized as a cult was to assume the best about cult parents over the well-being of children.
But more than this, it is entirely disingenuous.
The cult in Bavaria, otherwise know as the Twelve Tribes, has been actively defended directly and indirectly through the actions of American homeschool advocates — most notably, by HSLDA itself — for the last decade. These advocates have organized legions of American homeschoolers and funneled over $100,000 of American money to groups that have directly and unabashedly supported this cult and its “rights.” Whether through sheer ignorance, or turning a blind eye, HSLDA and fellow homeschool advocates have encouraged Americans to both enable and fund child abuse in Germany.