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A new ruling from the European Human Rights Court has affirmed the German nation’s Nazi-era ban on homeschooling, concluding that society has a significant interest in preventing the development of dissent through “separate philosophical convictions.”
The Strasburg-based court addressed the issue on appeal from a Christian family whose members alleged their human rights to educate their own children according to their own religious beliefs are being violated by the ban.
The specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued that Germany’s compulsory school attendance endangered their children’s religious upbringing and promotes teaching inconsistent with the family’s Christian faith.
The court said the Konrads belong to a “Christian community which is strongly attached to the Bible” and rejected public schooling because of the explicit sexual indoctrination programs that the courses there include.
The German court already had ruled that the parental “wish” to have their children grow up in a home without such influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.” The decision also said the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education.
The family had appealed under the European Convention on Human Rights statement that: “No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
But the court’s ruling said, instead, that schools represent society, and “it was in the children’s interest to become part of that society.
“The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience,” the ruling said.
“Not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also the integration into and first experience with society are important goals in primary school education,” the court said. “The German courts found that those objectives cannot be equally met by home education even if it allowed children to acquire the same standard of knowledge as provided for by primary school education.
“The (German) Federal Constitutional Court stressed the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society,” the ruling said.
The court noted it was a similar argument that arose in Holland earlier, where a politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, sought to close down all religious schools because only the state could properly teach children “tolerance.”
The U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association has confirmed that nearly 40 homeschooling families are embroiled in legal battles over the issue in Germany. The group, which has quickly growing influence around the globe on the issue of homeschooling, said the German families are facing persecution for trying to educate their children in a Christian atmosphere without exposing them to the state’s harmful secular values, especially sex education.
In fact, the HSLDA just recently announced a campaign to address the persecution Christians in Germany are facing from education authorities.
Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the HSLDA, said it was launched after a mother was arrested and jailed on criminal homeschooling counts.
A report in the conservative Brussels Journal said Katharina Plett was arrested and ordered to jail while her husband fled to Austria with the family’s 12 children.
Slatter said just a few days into the campaign, there already has been a large response from American homeschoolers, with e-mails and telephone calls pouring in to the German embassy.
A website for the Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The Youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
The HSLDA said the German embassy can be reached by e-mail through its website, by telephone at 202-298-4000 or by mail at: Wolfgang Ischinger, Ambassador, German Embassy, 4645 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC, 20007-1998.
“It is beyond belief that Germany is still enforcing a law that was written for one reason only – to be used by Hitler to control and indoctrinate German youth. It had no other redeeming value,” said Shoshona Bat-Zion on a homeschoolers’ blog.
The Pletts are part of a group of seven Baptist homeschool families who have been targeted frequently by authorities. Two families have left Germany and five others have enrolled their children in a Christian school, but their court cases remain pending.
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