The German government is targeting an American family of Baptist missionaries for deportation because they belong to a group that refuses “to give their children over to the state school system,” according to an international homeschool support organization.
The Home School Legal Defense Association works worldwide for the benefit of those who wish to teach their own children themselves. Officials there, and at several other international organizations, have been fighting for several years to convince the German government to recognize the well-established rights of parents to do that.
Michael Farris, cofounder of Home School Legal Defense Association
However, there’s been little headway, and HSLDA cofounder Michael P. Farris has told WND Germany is taking an “incredibly hard-line approach” against homeschooling.
In fact, authorities in Germany earlier declared war on homeschoolers, taking one young girl to a psychiatric ward for the offense of being homeschooled.
In the newest case, the attack has been turned against a family of American Christians who arrived in Germany to provide services to the public.
According to a report from the HSLDA, Clint Robinson, his wife Susan and their three children arrived in Germany in March after they sold their possessions in the U.S. and left to work as missionaries.
When they arrived, they applied for a residency permit, required by the government, according to the HSLDA and its affiliated German organization, called Schulunterricht Zu Hause.
But local authorities implied that such permission never would be granted to independent missionaries, “as they were already aware that these missionaries refuse to give their children over to the state school system.”
“German officials appear to be more determined than ever to rid their country of influences that may contribute to the rise of what they call ‘Parallelgesellschaften,’ parallel societies,” the HSLDA said in a statement. “Never mind that Germany has hundreds of thousands of genuinely truant youth hanging around street corners; school officials have determined that parents diligently educating their children at home are a greater danger to German society.
“Now it would seem that German officials are not content to go after their own citizens, but are also targeting American missionaries who homeschool,” the group said.
The family’s official rejection came just a few weeks ago, the HSLDA said, and they were given 45 days to leave or be “forcibly deported.” Then this month, the German homeschool advocates filed a court appeal on behalf of the family, delaying any action at least temporarily, officials said.
“The Robinsons are now working on a compromise that may result in a two-year visa, but to get it they will apparently be forced to promise they will leave at the end of that time and not seek an extension,” the HSLDA said.
The organization said it is working with several other groups and local German attorneys to file strategic litigation that would pressure German policy makers into a change.
“Because Germany is a member of the European Union and signatory to a variety of UN declarations and other human rights protocols, it is possible to use the venues to bring attention to this issue,” the group said.
A spokesman for HSLDA told WND that there also are several American military families located in Germany who are homeschooling, but those individual cases haven’t attracted the attention of authorities yet.
Homeschooling has been in illegal in Germany since the days of Hitler, but the crackdowns seem to be tightening. In recent months homeschoolers have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, had custody of their children taken away, had their homes threatened with seizure and in one case, that of Melissa Busekros, had a team of SWAT officers arrive on a doorstep with orders to seize her, “if necessary by force.”
“It seems as if a week doesn’t go by without another family being threatened with fines, imprisonment, or the loss of their children,” Farris said in a letter to constituents.
“In most cases families are fined, in some cases thousands of dollars, or when threatened with the removal of their children by German Youth Welfare authorities, have fled the country,” he continued. “Other families have been (and remain) separated for years – the fathers remaining in Germany to provide for their families and mothers and children living in another country where they are able to safely homeschool.”
And yes, the penalties have gone further. “Mothers and fathers have been also imprisoned, had their bank accounts confiscated, their wages garnished, or their businesses ruined by the actions of their local government,” he said.
The “now infamous” court case “Konrad v. Germany” in which the European Court of Human Rights essentially said that parental rights to raise their children must take second place to the government’s objections to homeschooling, “has clearly demonstrated that German homeschoolers have no hope of relief from their courts,” he said.
He said German officials are filled with fear that homeschooling will result in parallel societies, such as Islamic fundamentalism, that would create a danger, even though those in the United States understand it supports pluralism.
Melissa Busekros, after her return to her home. (Photo courtesy Klaus Guenther)
In the case involving Melissa Busekros, a German appeals court ordered legal custody of the teenager who was taken from her home by a police squad and detained in a psychiatric hospital for being homeschooled, be returned to her family because she no longer is in danger.
The lower court’s ruling had ordered police officers to take Melissa – then 15 – from her home, if necessary by force, and place her in a mental institution for a variety of evaluations. She was kept in custody from early February until April, when she turned 16 and under German law was subject to different laws.
At that point she simply walked away from the foster home where she had been required to stay and returned home, but she and her family had been living under the possibility that police would intervene again.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole.”
Drautz said homeschool students’ test results may be as good as for those in school, but “school teaches not only knowledge but also social conduct, encourages dialogue among people of different beliefs and cultures, and helps students to become responsible citizens.”
The German government’s defense of its “social” teachings and mandatory public school attendance was clarified during an earlier dispute on which WND reported, when a German family wrote to officials objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “… You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
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