A new court ruling categorizing homeschooling as “child welfare endangerment” contains “chilling” parallels to earlier decisions that in their time allowed German authorities to confiscate children from their parents if they were part of “fanatical Bible” groups, according to a homeschooling advocacy group.
Those earlier decisions, according to information being publicized by Netwerk Bildungsfreiheit, an organization that advocates for homeschoolers in Germany, were from the Nazi era.
As WND has reported, the newest court ruling not only found the basis for child endangerment in homeschooling, but also determined a local government was remiss in allowing a mother to take her two children to another country where homeschooling is legal.
The decision from the Federal High Court in Karlsruhe, Germany’s highest court, was reported by the German edition of Agence France-Presse as well as Netwerk Bildungsfreiheit.
Now the organization is noting the similarities with earlier court rulings, when Adolf Hitler was in power.
A ruling from the State Court in Hamburg dated 1936 pointed to “endangerment of the mental wellbeing of children, who would have been denied participation in the national community…,” a premise that corresponds to the recent Federal Supreme Court decision, the group said.
“Only the words have been chosen somewhat differently by the Supreme Court in order to conceal the fascist spirit of the decision,” the analysis said.
“It is quite chilling that the reasons stated by the authorities and courts in child custody terminations in Hitler’s regime … correspond in their spirit exactly to the decision recently rendered by the Federal Supreme Court,” the analysis said.
It said what courts used to call the “national community” now is the “public” and what was “participation in the national community” now has been called a justified interest in “counteracting the formation of religiously or ideologically characterized parallel societies and integrating minorities in this area.”
The analysis found that the “National Socialist (Nazi) regime” specifically targeted members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, including the State Court in Hamburg decision from 1936 in which judges found: “Custody rights shall be terminated for parents who, as fanatical Bible students, cannot rear their children in accordance with today’s State and because this endangers the mental wellbeing of the children, who are thereby prevented from participating in the national community.”
Hundreds of children were taken from their families for reasons no more important than they failed to sing Nazi songs with others, the analysis noted.
“Authorities, who interpreted the civil code according to their national socialist legal notions, considered it beyond question that the childrearing practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses was ‘endangerment of child welfare’ and ‘mental and moral neglect,'” the analysis said.
It was simply that their lives conflicted with the Hitler Youth Law: “All of German youth, except in the parental home and at school, shall be reared to serve the people and the national community physically, mentally and morally in the sense of national socialism in the Hitler youth.”
A 1937 decree followed, requiring “all state police bureaus to ‘pressure the competent civil courts to terminate the personal custody rights of members of the International Bible Students Association who endanger the mental wellbeing of their children through their illegal activities and through their adherence to the teachings…”
The new court decision did not directly identify the family involved but described the case of two children from a homeschooling family in Paderborn.
The court found the city and its social services agencies were “obviously unsuited” to the task of enforcing mandatory public school attendance, and rather than protecting against “child welfare endangerment,” the city allowed the family to move to Austria where the two children now are being educated by an “uncertified” mother.
An internet blogger’s site, Principle Discovery, which monitors some such situations, also translated the report and said the Paderborn case specifically involved issues of religious belief, but the decision also could impact another homeschooling case, from Bremen, which WND has reported.
In that case, the parents have been battling the government over their children’s education for educational, competency and cultural reasons, not necessarily religious reasons. For a time, however, they were relegated to begging a public court system for their own money to use for groceries after authorities froze both personal and business bank accounts to pay a $6,300 fine for homeschooling.
The Neubronner family (Photo courtesy Netwerk Bildungsfreiheit)
Dagmar Neubronner, who with her husband, Tillman, runs a home-based publishing business and homeschools sons Moritz, 10, and Thomas, 8, has been keeping the Home School Legal Defense Association updated on their troubles, including a recent freeze on their bank accounts.
However, a posting on Laigle’s Forum, which also has been monitoring the situation in Germany, said the family’s lawyer had contacted them to say their bank accounts had been made accessible again, and an application had been filed that would prevent the government from changing the custody status of their children without a court hearing first.
The Neubronners had sent their children to stay with unidentified friends over the weekend, because of their concern over the application of such laws to child custody situations, the posting said.
“The German authorities are obsessed with the idea that dissidents there – read: Christians – might start a ‘parallel society.’ Ironically, as one of the activists pointed out … bureaucratic Germany easily qualifies as a ‘parallel society’ on its own right because the authorities there have broken with European precedent and with all other European nations in completely banning homeschooling,” the editor at Netwerk Bildungsfreiheit noted.
The new court ruling involves, court records show, “two children of a Baptist couple from Paderborn.”
The court ruling from Karlsruhe, the public “has a justified interest in counteracting the formation of religiously or ideologically determined parallel societies and to integrate minorities in this area.”
Paderborn officials had proven to be “obviously derelict” in the case, because they “facilitated” the family’s move to Austria, the court ruling said.
The ruling said the family remains obligated to send the children to a German school.
WND has reported previously how German officials targeted 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.”
A teenager, Melissa Busekros, also returned to her family months after German authorities took her from her home and forcibly detained her in a psychiatric facility for being homeschooled.
And WND has reported on other families facing fines, frozen bank accounts and court-ordered state custody of their children for resisting Germany’s mandatory public school requirements, which by government admission are assigned to counter “the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views.”
In the case involving Melissa, a German appeals court ultimately 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.
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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