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 ↑
A mother and father in Archfeld, Germany, today were fined $181 for homeschooling their children by a judge who spared them the jail sentences demanded by the prosecutor, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
But the ruling today from the judge, identified only by his surname of Drier, said the parents were guilty under the criminal law in the German state of Hessen of homeschooling even though they were providing a good education for their children.
He fined them 120 euros, or $181 U.S.
“We recognize in our German basic law about philosophical and religious conviction and that parents have rights, but the basic law also includes that it is the state’s role to educate all children,” the judge ruled.
After a trial last year, the parents each were given 90 days in jail when the prosecutor, Herwig Mueller, asserted it was the only sufficient punishment for the family’s “crime.”
At the time, the prosecutor told the family, “You don’t have to worry about the fine, because I will send you to jail.”
Ultimately, the sentences were thrown out on a technicality, and the Dudeks were on trial again.
The HSLDA reported as the family left the courtroom today they were swarmed by German reporters who have been following the case. Dudek said they must keep reporting on the issue.
“It is time for Germany to look beyond the rim of their bowl – to look beyond its borders to see how other countries handle this issue of homeschooling,” he said.
“This whole situation with us as a family wouldn’t have come so far, with all this burden and pressure and sentences, if you had taken up this issue before and looked at this before,” Dudek told reporters.
“Now it is up to you to keep up the interest and reporting on this issue. Germany’s treatment of parents like us is wrong, and it is up to you to help people see this,” he said.
He described the trial as fair but said an appeal still was being considered.
“We know that what we are doing is right, and it is frustrating to have this same result that all homeschoolers in Germany get. The support of HSLDA and homeschoolers in America and other countries has really helped to carry us through,” he said.
HSLDA staff attorney Michael Donnelly said there still could be issues ahead, especially if the family continues homeschooling.
“No family should go to jail or be fined for homeschooling,” Donnelly said. “German public policy makers need to make changes to their laws to stop this kind of persecution of homeschoolers.
“We need to keep supporting these families who are fighting for a basic right that many of us take for granted. Juergen Dudek is a hero to me. His simple faith and trust in God’s providence and his courage to stand for what he knows is right inspires me. But like all of us, he needs encouragement. I hope we will all continue to keep him and his family in our prayers and continue to send notes of encouragement and support,” Donnelly said.
He said the family can be reached at: Family Dudek, Friedrichstr. Nr. 6, 37293 Archfeld, Germany.
There was no immediate word available from prosecutors on whether they would appeal to seek a jail term, as had been promised.
Armin Eckermann, chief of the homeschool organization Schuzh, attended the trial and told HSLDA the judge was trying to allow a compromise but the prosecutor was taking “a hard line.”
In Germany, many Christian families object to the public-school system because it advocates sexual and social activities that conflict with biblical teachings. The sex-education program, for example, is explicit.
Practical Homeschool Magazine has 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.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, commented previously on the issue, contending the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case wrote 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.”
Donnelly says the German characterization of homeschooling as a “parallel society” isn’t accurate, either.
“Homeschoolers are definitely a distinct social group but are not a ‘parallel society’ the way the German courts are trying to use the term,” Donnelly said. “The irony of German court decisions is their position that the state must teach ‘tolerance for diversity’ by forcing children into public schools and stamping out a diverse form of education recognized in all other Western democracies as a legitimate educational approach. Pluralism is supposed to stand for distinctive groups living peacefully together.”