Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Parents of a school-age girl in Germany who were convicted and fined for refusing to allow her to take a mandatory sex-ed class and preventing her from participating in a required “body” play are appealing their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
The case involving Eduard and Elisabeth Elscheidt is being handled by the Alliance Defense Fund, which has assigned attorney Roger Kiska to defend the family. Kiska told WND the case provides a good opportunity to further challenge Germany’s opposition to parental influence in their children’s education and the government’s totalitarian-type ban on homeschooling.
“Parents, not the government, are the ones ultimately responsible for making educational choices for their children,” Kiska said. “These parents were well within their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights to opt to teach their children a view of sexuality that is in accordance with their own religious beliefs instead
of sending them to a class and stageplay they found objectionable.
“These types of cases are crucial battles in the effort to keep bad decisions overseas from being relied upon by activists who attack parental rights in America,” he said.
WND reported in 2006 when the ECHR affirmed Germany’s nationwide ban on homeschooling, a leftover from its Nazi era that essentially said parents’ desires for their children’s education didn’t matter.
But a higher branch of the same court a year later created an exemption allowing parents to withhold their children from mandatory religious teaching in public schools in a case that came from Norway.
Norway’s requirement on religious teaching was ruled in violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Human Rights Convention and overturned. The ECHR said at the time, “The State must take care that information or knowledge included in the curriculum is conveyed in an objective, critical and pluralistic manner. The State is forbidden to pursue an aim of indoctrination that might be considered as not respecting parents’ religious and philosophical convictions.”
It noted at the time that its finding would “have effects extending beyond the confines of this particular case, since the violation found stems directly from the contested legal framework and not from its manner of implementation.”
Since the 2006 affirmation of Germany’s ban on homeschooling WND has reported on numerous cases, many handled by the Home School Legal Defense Association, in which penalties and fines have been imposed against parents who object to permissive sexual teachings and objectionable material in public schools, prompting them to homeschool their children instead.
Several hundred families are believed to be homeschooling Germany. Virtually all are in some type of court proceeding or living underground.
Kiska told WND the ECHR already has admitted in the Norwegian case that parents have the right to decide what their children are taught and the right not to have them indoctrinated with mandatory religious classes in school.
He said the Elscheidt case is arguing that parents should have the option to exclude their own children from explicit sex education as well.
That would be a huge step towards having Germany’s actual homeschooling ban addressed, he suggested.
The Elscheidt case centers on a four-day “sexual education” course in the daughter’s German school and a related stage production, “both of which taught views of sexuality in conflict with the family’s Christian faith.”
The Elscheidts participate in their Christian Baptist Church and were worried about their 11-year-old daughter attending the sex ed course along with the interactive stage play called “My Body Is Mine.”
They removed her from the play and lessons, arguing “that no scientific proof existed that the programs prevented child abuse (the play’s stated purpose) but, to the contrary, taught the children to become sexually active by ultimately teaching the principle that if something feels good sexually, then it is acceptable to do it.”
Last year they were convicted and fined the equivalent of several hundred dollars and two later appeals were rejected.
The 2006 ruling on homeschool said society has a significant interest in preventing the development of dissent through “separate philosophical convictions.”
The Strasbourg, France-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 were violated by the ban.
The specific case addressed in the opinion involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who filed the complaint in 2003 and argued Germany’s compulsory school attendance endangered their children’s religious upbringing and promoted 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 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.
A website for the Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Adolf 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 new case cites the “guarantee that parents be allowed to educate their children according to their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
“For this court to rule that there exists no right to opt-out of ‘sexual education’ classes which severely restrict the ability of the applicant parents to raise Franziska according to their faith would create an inconsistency of application of convention law in light of the Grand Chamber decision in Case of Folgero and Others v. Norway,” the case said.
“Protocol 1, Article 2 does not allow a distinction to be drawn between religious instruction and other subjects. It enjoins the state to respect parents’ convictions, be they religious or philosophical, throughout the entire state education program.”