I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

29 January 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany - part 13

Photo by A. Stahl

Late last night I got the news that some of the findings of the Bavarian Parliamentary hearing have made it to print.

Rechts Lupe had some good input on the reason for the closure of the private school if there were any legal questions left. There were no trained teachers for this private school as the 2013/14 school year began. Not mentioning any other questionable issues, this one is reason enough for the school inspectors to close operations.  Kostenlose Urteile also brought up the point of corporal punishment being a very real possibility in the school considering everything that goes on outside of it and that cannot be tolerated. 

You can find the text of the Bavarian Parliamentary hearing here.  I noticed one thing that was not covered by the audio I had translated yesterday. This is that the parliamentary hearing did see very clearly that the decision to allow the Twelve Tribes to operate a private school in their commune was a blackmail issue. Everyone acquainted with the situation knew this, but few were willing to say so. This is the first time we've really seen this said (and heard it with our own ears) from official channels.

The Südwest Presse was careful to note that the Grüne, SPD and Freie Wähler party members accused Child Protective Services of being too slow, lenient and doing too little too late to correct their errors.  Last week, on Monday, there was a child who ran away from his foster home and school to return to the commune. His case is currently being processed by the courts in Munich. 
The Augsburger Allgemeine did give us a better idea of the number of children back on the commune and in foster care yesterday as well.

... five children or young people have returned. A sixth teenager is now of age and has also returned. The now majority age teenager and one child were the fifth to return [to Klosterzimmern] after the police raid in September last year. One was a guest of the commune, and is not affected by the process. As it stands, the case of twenty-two of the original twenty-four children and young people taken into care, and those who are back with their parents, has yet to be finally settled.  [source]

This makes one wonder where the number of fifteen has been arrived at. Does this include other children from another nearby commune?  Perhaps one of my commenters closer to the case can give some input there.

If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10,  part 11  and part 12 to be better informed on this issue.

28 January 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany - Part 12

Photo by A. Stahl

I've been closely following the news and commentary on the Twelve Tribes since the meeting in the Bavarian Parliament. Today, I've been poked three times to share the news that has been released today via Der Spiegel, about an ex-member of the Twelve Tribes named "Amitsa". She left the group when she was 16 and tells us what happened inside the group in Klosterzimmern and after her flight from them. The title of the article translates to "Life after the sect: I have no roots and no strength left to fly."

Amitsa tells of her life in the sect and that she was beaten often, though she doesn't remember any more how often that was each day.  She mentions that it began at the time her feet hit the floor in the morning until sundown when she went to bed. Always being reproved with a rod for trivial matters including laughter, imaginative play, questioning her parents or elders, and not complying with commands immediately. She says that living in the sect was an awful lot like living in a live  minefield that constantly has mines blowing up. You never knew who to trust or if anyone was trustworthy.

With the way that she challenged the authorities in the sect, asking siblings for help,  she and two other siblings along with her parents were excommunicated. Two of her siblings were allowed to remain in the sect, and placed in new families.

Amitsa is now 19 and has testified in the courts about her life in the group and how one was not allowed to think freely. She is attempting to make something of her life now outside of the cult and possibly begin again nearer to family in the United States.

I would urge you, if you are able, to please run her story through Google Translate so that you can also understand what we're seeing here when individuals leave this group. It is not the best option for reading sources from another language, but it is better than taking only my word for what is being said.

Yesterday, ARD had on their Mediathek - a radio story concerning the Twelve Tribes. You can find it under  Landesbank,12 Stämme, Holocaust-Gedenken, Peter Gauweiler - 26.01.2014
The Twelve Tribes portion starts at minute 4:18 and ends around minute 7:59.  A shocking note to this radio blurb about the Parliamentary hearing in Bavaria is that it was mentioned fifteen  children are to return to the Zwölf Stämmen group in Klosterzimmern and the number I've seen quoted prior to that is that of seven.

NOTE: I'm unsure if I've spelled names correctly - I'm taking a wild guess here and my exposure to the dialect spoken here is very limited. I may have a few mistakes and hopefully any comments left below will let me correct them.

*Beginning at Minute 4:18*

Lorenz Störch: They call themselves a faith community but react to pressure from the authorities like a sect. The Twelve Tribes Commune in Schwäbische Klosterzimmern has been in and out of the courts for three years fighting against the courts placing their children in public schools. Fines of a hundred and fifty thousand Euro have mostly not been paid. The fathers, happily chose instead to force the courts to send them to jail rather than pay the fines.

In 2006, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture turned a bit and ruled that the Twelve Tribes could send their children to a private supplementary school on their grounds, reported Bernhardt Butz, the head of the politics division from the Parliamentary House.

Bernhardt Butz: The state had attempted in every possible way to enforce compulsory education laws until it became very apparent that the prospect was probably hopeless.

Lorenz Störch: There were tips for years that the Twelve Tribes also used corporal punishment in their schools as they did in their homes - but reliable witnesses were difficult to come by. But in February of last year, there was an case of suspected abuse driving investigations into the twelve tribes, specifically five parents, from the attorney general's offices in Augsburg that was set to be heard in August. 

It was only when RTL snuck a reporter into the Twelve Tribes commune in September and made secret recordings of the punishment the children endured and played them back on television that Child Protective Services were able to act.

Forty children were seperated from their parents and after various hearings and checkups, fifteen were allowed to return to the commune. "We have, of course, for many years preformed checks and kept an eye on the Twelve Tribes.." defended Josef Ziller from the regulatory office in the Ministry of Social Affairs.

Josef Ziller: We do not have a Child Protective Services arm that works as a spying agency that can slip into groups like RTL did to do secret investigations in cases like these.

Lorenz Störch: Ruth Wiedemann from the SPD faction [in Parliament] was not pleased with this answer.

Ruth Weidemann: There is a group here of people who regularly beat small children and you have to actually take into mind that this has not constituted an important enough topic to be tackled [by Child Protective Services]!

Lorenz Störch: Secondly, the parliamentary factions were all agreed that based on how one defined the presented facts of the Twelve Tribes child abuse to the Child Protective Services and district attorneys was a difficult balancing act. One the one hand we have the rights of the office of the state to protect the children and the child's rights to wellbeing and on the other side we have as the social committee's outstanding member Joachim Unterländer of the CSU expresses:

Joachim Unterländer: To state the boundary issues properly is to understate the proper points of the strict rule of law and child-oriented protection laws. [any help here with this one is greatly appreciated!]

Lorenz Störch: Also Eva Gottstein from the Freie Wähler is torn about the issue.

Eva Gottstein: It must not be allowed that the children are physically abused, but we also have to be careful about the measures taken that cause spiritual and mental abuse of these children.

Lorenz Störch: And due to these issues, the children have mostly been removed from the parents and placed into foster homes, some even in other states, because these children are emotionally abused. Die Grünen MP Christine Kamm turned her words against the members of the Twelve Tribes who were sat in the visitors section in the Parliamentary debate.

Christine Kamm: One must insist on your position of the right to corporal punishment complicates things as there are better solutions than what you are using now.

Reporter: Then came a loud interjection.

Carsten Hennig: No one found anything other than happy children with us!

Lorenz Störch: After Carsten Hennig was removed from the hearing, he and his wife Britte from the commune in Klosterzimmern set themselves in front of the Bayrische Rundfunk microphone to explain the Twelve Tribes coroporal punishment parenting methods; eventhough they are separated from their three and eight year old children.

Carsten: They are happy, they are healthy and it's up to the parents.

Britte: Every parent has to set boundaries for their children.

Carsten & Brigitte: This is not a cane, it is a very thin, flexible, long switch.

Reporter: That was Lorenz Störch, reporting from the Bavarian Parliament Hearings

Another set if articles caught my eye today. For those of you unfamiliar with the Twelve Tribes, these may prove further helpful to you in understanding their beliefs and why it is so difficult for individuals to leave the group.

I had also been given a tip to check out the book "Home Education In Deutschland Hintergrunde, Praxis, Entwicklung", so I am doing my best to get things in order to hunker down with that and do some more research. I already see that the Twelve Tribes are mentioned a few times in the book.

If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read Part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10  and part 11 to be better informed on this issue.

25 January 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany, part 11

Photo by A. Stahl

  From what I understand at this juncture, the count of children in the Klosterzimmern community is currently at two or three youths around seventeen or eighteen years of age, two fourteen year-olds and 2 breastfeeding infants. The two aged fourteen are required to attend school outside of the community as the school in the community has been closed since September.

I believe the eighteen year-olds are required to go to a vocational school as they have no certificate of completion from high school or any training for jobs outside of the cult.  Sources I've been reading also report an additional six or seven children or adolescents that have not yet been removed or have returned. I'm unsure how accurate this count is. Hopefully a commenter can set us straight.

I haven't mentioned it before, but I know that the Diakonische Werk Donau-Ries eV. has put together a fund that individuals can give towards members of the community that wish to exit and for the children in foster homes, so that they can start their lives over. If you think that this will be of interest, definitely check out the link or give them a call and ask about it. [source]

As of Thursday and Friday, there has been some more movement in the courts in regard to the Twelve Tribes.

The RTL reporter that first broke the story (Wolfram Kuhnigk) has met with the crew at the local newspaper; Donau-Ries Aktuell.  As the paper has experience with the Twelve Tribes, this was a move to consolidate efforts. [source] I look forward to seeing what these efforts bring forth.

The Bavarian state parliament met this week to discuss the issue of the Twelve Tribes. An interesting thing happened when one of the parents stood up in the middle of the hearing to yell across the room about the benefits of corporal punishment. The members of parliament threatened to remove the man with police force as this is intolerable behavior, so Carsten left the room. [source]

For those of you who do not speak German - Carsten Hennig explained that the Bible commands spanking and that it's not abusive at all, it's just one pop and it makes a child realize what they did was incorrect so that they'll correct their behavior. "It's quick and then the child is happy again and the issue is water under the bridge." He was removed from the room and interviewed outside by a few news reporters.

This upset several people, of course, such as Margarete Bause, a member of the Bundnis '90/Die Grünen. She said, "For the children, it is unbelieveably bad. When I hear the testimony of the many ex-members [of the Twelve Tribes], I am told how the corporal punishment [in the group] completely destroyed their lives in that it broke their will and them as individuals."

Reporter: Others are at fault in the eyes of the sect. Politicians, the authorities and the media. They preach a radical version of Christianity and use corporal punishment as a medium to force obedience of its youngest members.

From here, Carsten goes on to prooftext Proverbs 13:24 [Those who withhold the rod [authority] hate their children, but the one who loves them applies discipline. CEB] and explain that the Scriptures do not say to use the hand but to use a rod.
 As someone who is Messianic, I have to say that this is a horrible understanding of the Scripture's use of "the rod", which is about a parent's, G-d's or king's authority which was represented with a shepherd's or king's gilded rod. [see this and this.] There's no use even translating this due to the fact his position is well known in the United States through many different religious teachers who advocate for corporal punishment as a biblical practice.

Woman: To abuse children is forbidden, whether you know them or not and no matter what you believe about it. It's not possible and must be prevented as children have a right to be protected.

Reporter: And the state intervened in September when they removed around forty children from the sect in Schwäbische Klosterzimmern. The police raid was completed between a rock and a hard place.

Woman: The problem is that the small children raised in the sect do not have any chance of growing up with their own free thoughts on matters. I believe we need to intervene in such a case to steer things away from this belief. But, the parents are still the parents of these children. Again, I believe this is where we take the toughest measures to remove children so they can escape their parents [thought control].

Reporter: The Twelve Tribes are now not allowed to use their religious school any more after this ruling. The children are now in public schools and ever more under the watchful eyes of the public.

The Nordbayern and Der Spiegel have reported that the authorities fear they have been far too lenient these last twenty years on the Twelve Tribes and are now making up for lost time. Although the state allowed the sect to open a private school in the guise of homeschooling in 2006 [source and source], this school had been formally closed by authorities due to lack of qualified teachers. [source] There is also the question of doubt that corporal punishment will not be implemented in the classroom, therefore the children have been ordered to attend public schools. [source]

The court documents that speak to the Twelve Tribes (home)school being closed may be found here.

This is all that I have at the moment, but I'll keep you all posted if I hear anything else.

If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read Part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9 and part 10 to be better informed on this issue.

22 January 2014

Book review: Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber

I've recently read a very interesting book by Nadia Bolz-Weber. For those of you who haven't heard of the book, Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint; it has been getting rave reviews in my circles and I kept being told how much I would absolutely love it.  Being the naturally skeptical person that I am, I kept holding off until I had multiple people telling me that I "absolutely MUST read this book!!"

Now, those of you who know me, I had only few clues to go on when this was recommended. When I saw a hard copy go on sale, my curiosity was completely overwhelmed and I ordered it. Then, I waited for the postman to bring my copy. It took days, instead of ACME time-frame, and it was a rather boring wait. I won't bore you with the details.

When the book arrived, I opened the package knowing I had one of the books I'd ordered, but I was uncertain which one had arrived until I saw the beautiful detailing of Pastrix's cover.  I pretty much acted like a kid who had gotten their long wished for birthday or Christmas present. I just tossed the packaging aside and started reading. I only stopped a couple of times and otherwise read it all in just a couple hours.

I understand why the book hasn't gotten as many good reviews as it has, because Nadia does not hold back when it comes to language, her life experiences or her beliefs about LGBTQ issues and her faith. I don't have a problem with that, but I understand that some people do, and that's OK!

I saw myself in a lot of the ways Nadia explained some of her struggles. Honestly, I think she and I could be great friends.  What I love about this book is that Nadia lays her life bare for her readers. It's beautiful, raw, depressing and happy all rolled into one. There are no great answers to the mystery of life, just an arrow to the cross full of grace.

Some of our life experiences are similar, and many are vastly different. Oh those struggles. Yes. Exactly that.  Seeing the sacred in the secular? Yes. Sometimes having mouthy reactions to something we don't understand or yet see, or just a straight up honest knee-jerk reaction where we don't want to change or do anything right now? yep. That too.

This isn't a book I would readily recommend to most of my fundamentalist family members. Nope. Not up their alley. But people who have become quickly disenchanted with the faith they were raised in due to it's dual messages, punitive parenting and horrible misrepresentations of G-d; yes. I would definitely recommend people who are hurting and trying to crawl back to G-d to read this. It's like a balm to the soul.

So, if you can't get a copy of your own, definitely find one at the library and give it a good read. If you loved it as much as I did, definitely check out her blog: The Sarcastic Lutheran.


19 January 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany, part 10

Photo by A. Stahl
Here are the recent updates on the Twelve Tribes in Germany:

Last month, there were several news articles I was unable to get to due to time crunches with the holidays and dealing with some ongoing situations in my family. These articles included:

  • The Twelve Tribes held a meeting in Deiningen to discuss their beliefs and explain how they discipline their children. They, however, did not wish for news coverage to include cameras or recording devices and sent the Bayrische Rundfunk and RTL out of the room. (Source)
  • The babies of the Twelve Tribes have been weaned and are now placed in foster care. Twenty police officers and members of child protective services showed up in the early morning hours to retrieve seven children from the St. Nikolaus-Heim. (Source)  
  • Child Protective Services were simply responding to the court decision made in the courts of Nördlingen in September. However, this generated some negative press as the mothers were quite upset to be separated in this way. (Source)

Earlier this month, the prosecutors in Ansbach discontinued the abuse case against the parents of ten children who live in the Twelve Tribes community in Wörnitz due to lack of evidence.  Their case will continue in family court in regards to their education while, the case against the community in Klosterzimmern is still ongoing. [Source]

 The reason for the provisional withdrawal of custody of the Wörnitz Twelve Tribes parents was due to abuse allegations. [Source]

With the case of the Twelve Tribes in Klosterzimmern, the courts will be tied up for some time investigating the abuse allegations, interviewing and questioning parents and children. At this juncture, psychological assessments will be made with the children in question. [Source]

The Süddeutsche Zeitung had a fair write-up on why Child Protective Services has removed so many children in the past year from their parents and why the case of the Twelve Tribes is not a "Should they remove children?" but "They MUST remove the children." type of situation.

If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read Part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6, part 7, part 8 and part 9.

Note: This post was updated on 20.1.2014 due to news that was accidentally left out.

11 January 2014

Another Newspaper article about the Twelve Tribes

Two Trees in a poppy field - painting and photo by J. Stahl

One Saturday in October 1996, Mark Ilich and his wife Rosemary did something they would regret for the rest of their lives. They attended the Newtown Festival. It was a warm spring day and the festival, in Sydney's inner west, was busy with music and people. Together with their daughter Undila, who was six, and their three-year-old son, Abraham, Mark and Rose wandered about, then sat down on a patch of grass in front of the stage, where various acts were playing. . .
Secrets of the family by Tim Elliot

08 January 2014

German Homeschooling Case - The Wunderlichs Update 3

Hibiscus - photo by A or J Stahl
During the holiday season, the Wunderlich family had another hearing in Darmstadt to further discuss their wishes to homeschool their children and immigrate elsewhere. For those who have not been following, the Judge at in the court overseeing the Wunderlich case has taken possession of their passports as the family has been deemed a flight risk.

Normally, this would be an unusual action. However, the family has attempted to leave the country a couple of times and has changed cities to avoid child protective services and the courts.  This would be entirely unusual in the United States due to our laws. However, German courts must consider the welfare, educational needs and rights of the children. In addition, they must consider the flight risk of the parents and all concerns of creating a detrimental parallel society. In such a case, one would not have right to travel during an ongoing investigation and hearing.

Typically, if a homeschool family is doing well academically and willing to pay the fees for not sending their children to traditional schools - and the children are well socialized and not at risk for creating a parallel society; the courts will continue to ask for fees every year rather than take such drastic measures. It is in the best interest of all children to remain with their parents when the child's welfare is not considered at risk. I would suggest reading up on the blog here, here and here before reading further if you are unfamiliar with this particular German case.

Here is the latest:

On the 18th of December, the courts in Darmstadt made a decision to remove partial custody of the children from the parents. Dirk and Petra Wunderlich were informed of this decision on Christmas Eve. The ruling will keep them firmly in Germany at this time. - : Christliche Hausschuleltern schitern erneut vor Gericht

As long as the parents agree to send their children to school full time, the courts will agree to give them back full custody.
RP Online: Schulverweigerer: Gericht entzieht Eltern Sorgerecht

The courts have declared rights to determination of residence [Aufenthaltsbestimmungsrecht] for the eight to fourteen-year-old children to keep them in the country.  Their lawyer, Andreas Vogt said "This Court's scandalous decision reminds us of the former East German ruling that flight from the republic must be prevented." The Wunderlichs will be appealing this decision with the higher courts in Frankfurt am Main. - Christliche Hausschuleltern scheitern erneut vor Gericht

From American Sources:
“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said Farris. “So is the right to freely move and to leave a country. The act of seizing these four ...children is a very serious violation of ...human rights.”... 
HSLDA: Attorney Says Seizure of Wunderlich Children Reminiscent of Communist Regime

...[The Judge] compared homeschooling to having the children wear a straitjacket and said he had to make sure the children remained in Germany so they would be integrated into society... “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and ... practicing tolerance.” ... [this] would be “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child.”
World Net Daily: Judge: Homeschooling a 'concrete endangerment' to kids
 Update 1.9.2014:

You can find an English translation via the HSLDA on the court decision on December 18, 2013 here.  I am actively looking for the decision that was made by the Higher Court in Frankfurt in September, and will post that here as soon as I can find it.