Home School Alumni False Accusations

Home School Alumni leader fires our son Klaus and takes away his membership with HSA

February 18, 2007, two-days after our presentation to HSLDA Board, the Home School Alumni (HSA) president, Camden Spillar out of the blue called our son Klaus, who was on his way to the airport for his return trip to Germany, and was very angry with him. He accused Klaus of not being a good character because he was not upright with other people’s money. (We knew someone who worked together with Camden and this individual told us that Camden’s demeanor toward Klaus changed all of a sudden beginning on February 18, a Sunday).

At the HSLDA board presentation I mentioned that our children were very much involved in the homeschool movement in America. I wanted HSLDA to know that we were a family committed to the movement. I mentioned that son Klaus was organizing a two-week European tour for the homeschool alumni that he would also guide.

Klaus decided early on when he began to plan this tour to offer that Camden Spillar should oversee the money taken in from the participants of this tour. He worked hard to keep the price below $500 per individual. Klaus is always looking to help others and he wanted as many as possible to be able to afford such a trip and to enjoy them selves. He had people lined up who would serve these alumni tour participant’s native foods; he prepared tours of interest, etc.

You might imagine the distress he found himself in when on the way to the airport for his return trip back to Germany where he is studying, and following my presentation to HSLDA’s board, he received a phone call from Camden, who was angry and now accusing Klaus of all people of irresponsible financial management and therefore he was not a trustworthy character. These charges painfully reminded us of what we had been accused of by Chris Klicka to James McDonald and others. Camden threatened to fire Klaus and take over the tour himself. How was he all of a sudden the boss of Klaus’ tour we wondered out loud? After a lengthy talk, Camden promised Klaus that he would wait until Klaus had arrived back in Germany and then they would discuss this matter further.

This whole talk caused a delay for Klaus to catch his plane. He missed it and had to buy another ticket. Neither Klaus nor we had the money to buy this ticket so we had to scramble.

The whole ordeal with Camden was monstrous and a mystery to us. What was amazing was that Camden had acted precisely like James McDonald had acted toward me. It was again just like it had been when Chris Klicka had called James before we arrived in Houston to begin my employment.

Camden did not keep his promise. Upon Klaus’ arrival home in Germany, there awaited him an email from Camden with the news that Klaus was out and Camden himself would take over the entire tour and act as the tour guide. This was preposterous! Camden had never been to Europe nor had he ever led a tour of this magnitude. What happened to cause Camden to undertake such a risk?

Since he used the same arguments against Klaus that James McDonald had used against me, it is easy to believe that he was called just like James had been called. And like with me, it appears that the call took place on the Lord’s Day! – Ladies and gentlemen, Klaus has always been honest and upright. He is a Christian above all else!

Choosing Camden to be in charge of taking in the money was to assure the tour participants that their money would be appropriately spent. Klaus could have taken in the money himself but he wanted to act openly. He wanted accountability. But now he found himself with bills because he had reserved hotels and buses and was obligated to pay whether or not the tour took place. Fortunately, since he was able to cancel them soon enough he did not have to pay the entire amount. Some people who had signed up for this tour asked Camden for their money back, which Camden refused.

Homeschool leaders invite us to address their group

Two weeks prior to Christmas 2006, we were invited to attend a dinner function sponsored by a Michigan State Representative. The function was in her house. Our children had helped a candidate in his campaign and through them we parents were invited to this dinner. There was a couple there who, when they heard our name, ran to us and wanted to talk. They were Michigan homeschool leaders. They knew who we were and were excited to meet and talk with us. They of course asked us where we had been because no one had heard anything about us for awhile.

As we were leaving they stopped us and invited us to come and address their group. They took our phone number and said that we would hear back from them in a few days. We never heard back from them. Did they call HSLDA or perhaps talk to someone who had been told that the Smiths were not upright people? We never found out.

Mission to Germany

We had been involved in the case of a young girl, Melissa Busakros and her family in Germany since sometime around January 1. We knew this family and they had visited us several times when we lived in Germany. They are Schuzh members. Now, Melissa had been forcefully removed from the home of her parents by the police and placed in a psychiatric ward because she was not going to school. This was a big scandal and we were instrumental in seeing it published throughout America. There have been many articles written about Melissa.

Sometime in January our son Hans had met a Pastor from Illinois at some kind of a youth homeschool gathering (The people in this pastor’s church were largely made up of homeschool families). The pastor naturally wanted to know who Hans was because he had never seen him before. Hans told him that his parents were German homeschool leaders. The pastor knew who we were and told Hans that he wanted to meet us.

I eventually called this pastor and he invited me and my wife to have dinner with him and his wife. They invited us to a very fine restaurant and then urged me to address the Board of Elders of his church who was meeting that same evening. I agreed to address them. Not wanting to mention anything about the misfortunes of the past year, I gave them a report on Germany and told them that I had been diagnosed with cancer and was now in Michigan resting for a few months to try to get it under control. I told them that we had left Germany because we had run out of funds. We left this group of men with lots of hugs and tears from both sides.

The morning following this meeting, the pastor called to tell me that he and his Board of Elders had decided to take us on as homeschool missionaries to Germany. They wanted to send us back! We were simply amazed!

Three-weeks passed and we did not hear another word from the pastor. This worried me. Had he called HSLDA and received a bad report about us? We decided to go to Illinois and his church to meet with him. Here, he appeared rather distant toward us. What had happened? I decided to ask him for a short meeting following the service.

When the service ended, the pastor came to me with the church’s attorney and invited me to follow them into his office. I decided that I should tell them very briefly that I was having a dispute with HSLDA and hoped it could be taken care of soon. I suspected that he had probably heard something. When he told me that he was a personal friend of Mike Farris, my heart sank. I assumed that he must have talked to Mike about us after he had told us that his church would take us on as missionaries to Germany. Anyway, after telling us that he and his elders had decided to take us on as missionaries, he did not keep his word.

I had received a call from an attorney who is the president of a human rights organization. I had worked together with him when he headed Jay Sekulow’s European office in Strasbourg, France. This attorney said that the situation had worsened with Melissa and he wanted my wife and me to go to Germany because he was convinced that we could take influence.

Following the service at the pastor’s church and after my meeting with the pastor and the church attorney, our family was invited to a gathering of families for dinner at a private home in Chicago. During this gathering we shared our need to return to Germany to help with the Melissa affair. When we said that we did not have the necessary funds to go, the pastor, who was also present at this gathering, said that the following Sunday he would let me share our mission to Germany during the service and our need to be financed. He said that he would take up a collection to finance this mission.

Sunday came and I presented a little power point presentation of who we were and what we had done in Germany to help homeschool families. I said that there was a family who needed our help at this very moment and that we would like to ask this congregation to help us to finance our trip to Germany. As it turns out, instead of asking for a special collection as he had said he would do, the pastor offered that the church would pay for our plane fare. In the end, when we returned from this mission that had been a great success, I presented a report to the congregation. But the pastor remained distant.

Saying goodbye to Michigan

Six-months passed since we arrived in Michigan and we were asked by the missionary group who had taken us in to leave our temporary home there. We were told that a pastor with cancer needed a place to live. We of course said that we understood and agreed to leave by a date specified. We left on a Sunday and drove through Illinois to attend the pastor’s church to say goodbye to the friends we had made there. The pastor was more distant to us than ever. I had to make a special effort to get him to turn around to shake my hand in parting.

Our youngest daughter, Elke remained in contact with one of the little girls living in the vicinity of where we had lived in Michigan. This little girl kept Elke informed about the apartment we had left. The apartment remained vacant for about three-months. This was the third time we had been uprooted in a little more than a year. It grieves me that our children sometimes say they just want to go home. They do not complain but do miss being home. Home? What home? After Houston I was not able to make payments on our home in Germany and it was lost. Now we have no home to go to.

Mike Farris visits Germany

April 4, 5, 6, 2007, Mike Farris decided to visit Germany to discuss the homeschool situation there with German homeschool leaders. (This was on his own because he had not been invited by anyone in Germany) Mike had requested from Armin Eckermann in March that the Smith’s not be present at these meetings. HSLDA’s board attorney, James Mason, wrote to us on March 22, 2007: “Mike Farris is also planning a trip to Germany to meet in person with leaders, lawyers, and families who need help.

As you can no doubt understand, because matters between you and HSLDA are unresolved I have advised him not to meet with you directly while in Germany. I have also advised him not to discuss anything that may potentially be the subject of future litigation. He will refer any questions of that sort to me. If anyone should ask him about your relationship with HSLDA going forward, he will simply say that we are exploring ways to assist you in returning to Germany to help homeschoolers there. Of course Mike’s trip will not preclude you from meeting with German leaders separately.”

Though Armin wanted us to be present at these meetings, we agreed, given these assurances, that we would stay away from these meetings where Mike was present. HSLDA did not keep their word. Mike instead told the leaders that the Smith’s were suing HSLDA to get rich and that Germany no longer needed the Smith’s. When we sent a letter we had received from Armin Eckermann to James Mason, where Armin gave a report of his and his wife’s meeting with Mike Farris and Mike Donnelly, also an HSLDA attorney stating that Mike Farris complained that the Smiths were suing to get rich.

James responded in a letter to us: “This letter is in response to your e-mail of May 14, 2007. It appears that at present we have nothing further to discuss. In the event you wish to bring anything new to my attention please do not hesitate to contact me.” We received letters from other leaders in Germany who reported that Mike had told them similar things about us. Armin had been urging Mike to send us back to Germany where our presence is without question needed. How could Mike tell these leaders now that we are no longer needed? We had been led to believe since following our presentation to HSLDA Board on February 16, that Mike’s mission was to look for a way to get us back into our ministry there. We had been led to believe that this was his reason for making this trip.

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