Philadelphia, PA: HSLDA Conference

Eventually, I asked Chris if HSLDA would sponsor Zelda and me to attend the September/October 2005 HSLDA leadership conference that was going to be held in Philadelphia. A few days passed before he called to let me know that HSLDA would sponsor us. When we told him that we had no money for the trip, he told us to use our credit card and that HSLDA would pay us in cash in Philadelphia.

Searching for airline rates to Philadelphia, we discovered that the cost to fly on to Houston for a visit with James McDonald and his wife Stacey to discuss employment with them would not be more expensive. So, we made an appointment to meet with James and Stacey following our meetings in Philadelphia. We had little hope that HSLDA would change their position of funding us by continuing to reach out for donations for us and our work in Germany.

Even though we had little hope that HSLDA would continue to fund us on a regular basis, our aim in Philadelphia was to make one last attempt to convince HSLDA that we were still needed in Germany and that they should continue to reach out for donations to fund us. However, if HSLDA would hold their position that they would no longer fund us, we were prepared to leave Germany and begin work with James and Stacey McDonald in Houston.

Schuzh president, attorney Armin Eckermann and his wife, Gabriele, Schuzh leading attorney felt that the meeting in Philadelphia was so important that they also decided to attend at their own expense. Armin made the decision to hold our annual Schuzh Board meeting during the time of this HSLDA conference. Armin and Gabriele wanted to use their time in Philadelphia to plead with HSLDA to continue funding the desperate need in Germany. We had four Schuzh meetings during the time of this HSLDA conference in an attempt to resolve this issue.

During the second Schuzh board meeting, Chris invited Gregg Harris to join us and asked if we would approve him as a member of the Schuzh board. Being unaware that there were any problems between us and Gregg, we of course trusted Chris and voted Gregg onto the board. After the vote, Gregg stepped in and took control. This surprised both us and the Eckermanns because he was new and did not know any of the things that had gone on at Schuzh. We and the Eckermanns were amazed at how he became very abrupt in addressing us.

When we continued to plead for funds, he told us that funds from HSLDA for Germany could only be given to attorneys. The Eckermanns argued that attorneys were not needed but that the Smiths were. This argument fell on deaf ears.

Instead, Gregg offered to get money for us if we would plant churches in Germany. He told us that we wouldn’t have to work hard at this and that the church could even be in our home. He said that the number of members did not matter. Even if we had only one member attending services would be enough. This way, he said, we could continue to work for Schuzh.

We were deeply offended by this plan and Chris approved of it. We said that this was not acceptable because it was not honest.

Chris at one point during one of our Schuzh meetings told us that our performance had nothing to do with HSLDA not wanting to give us any more money. He said that we had performed many amazing things in Germany.

Having announced at our last Schuzh meeting that I had no choice but to leave Germany and take a job with James McDonald. Gregg Harris, knowing that we had no resources left told us that he would see to it that he wouldn’t let us lose our house in Germany. He also said that he would see to it that we would hit the ground running in Houston.

A month later, when I was looking for funds to relocate to Houston, I called Gregg and he said that he didn’t want to help. I reminded him of his words in Philadelphia and he admitted that he had said these things but that he never promised them. He ended up giving us $2,000.

Philadelphia, PA: HSLDA Conference

HSLDA June 2005 Court Report

Someone attending the HSLDA conference in Philadelphia gave us a copy of HSLDA’s June 2005 Court Report, a publication HSLDA sends to their members every other month. In this Court Report my wife and I were given titles of attorneys. (“Simultaneously, Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. – School Instruction at Home – attorneys Joseph and Zelda Smith (not their real names), who are also homeschooling parents, mediated with the authorities on behalf of the seven families”).

There was also a call for donations for Germany in this Court Report. Living in Germany, my wife and I were not aware of this article when it first appeared. We only learned of it later when we attended the HSLDA leadership conference in Sept./Oct. in Philadelphia. Since, I have discovered that this was not a mistake but was the work of Chris Klicka. Perhaps it was to cover HSLDA because they had broken their charter by giving donated money to us, who were not attorneys?

We were surprised when Scott Woodruff asked us if we were attorneys because it was so stated in the Court Report. He thought it was strange because he knew we were not attorneys – It may be of significance that this article appeared after HSLDA had stopped giving us monthly support.

You can imagine our surprise when we read an article written in a German publication referring to us as attorneys. This article appeared about the time the Court Report was released to the public mentioning us as attorneys.

Before the conference in Philadelphia, I had received several calls from German homeschool leaders (who had read an article in a German publication that listed us as attorneys) asking if we were indeed attorneys. We certainly did not know where this had come from and were puzzled because we of course are not attorneys and we had thought this was known by everyone. We never told anyone that we were attorneys and never pretended to be.

German Officials Come After Smith Family

While we were attending the HSLDA conference in Philadelphia, we received a phone call from home. Our oldest son was standing in the doorway preventing police from entering to take our youngest daughter because she was being homeschooled. This was a traumatic moment for our children but Klaus handled it well. Also, this was not the first time a state official had come to our door. We lived under this kind of pressure.

A year earlier we had a meeting together with a homeschool couple in northern Germany and with their county commissioner and the county commissioner’s attorney. This was an official meeting. The attorney tried to convince the couple to send their children back to school. He pretended to quote the law that clearly showed that the couple was breaking. We had prepared ourselves for this meeting so we were familiar with the law he was supposedly quoting.

Knowing that he was misrepresenting it, we asked him to get out his law book and read the law he was quoting. He did so and was embarrassed because what he had said was the exact opposite of what the law really stated. The meeting was abruptly ended. A few days later we received in the mail a notice that criminal charges had been filed against us – basically because we were helping homeschoolers to break the law.

Also, following this meeting, a reporter called and wanted to have an interview. My wife gave a well thought out interview, responding to the question, what the children felt was wrong with sex education. She responded that the children had reported that their honor and integrity were deeply injured. The teachers union took this as an affront to teachers who are government employees and as such cannot be publicly complained about. So, the union filed a suit against my wife.

Charges Dropped

Shortly before the Philadelphia conference the criminal charges against me and my wife were dropped, after a hard battle fought by our attorney, Dr. Ronald Reichert. Now we were free to leave Germany to take a job in America, if it was decided that HSLDA would no longer raise funds for us and our work in Germany.

Since Chris did not give us money at the conference like he had promised, upon our return to Germany I again asked for the money to cover costs incurred for the HSLDA conference in Philadelphia. I began to correspond with Vanessa in the HSLDA accounting department. She emailed: “I was just told by our accounting office, that we need to stop sending it to your organization but send it directly to you.”

This troubled us because HSLDA had always paid us through Schuzh. This way we could always transparently account for the money given to us. HSLDA ended up sending the money to cover our travel costs to Philadelphia again to Schuzh “for German homeschoolers”.

Because HSLDA told us that they were no longer willing to gather funds for our ministry, we announced that we would fly on to Houston from Philadelphia where we would meet with James McDonald to discuss a possible employment agreement to join his business. I thought that this would please Chris because he had commented that I should go back to work.

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