A ruling could come as soon as tomorrow on a request by a German family for political asylum in the United States because of the persecutionthey would face, including fines and possible jail terms, for homeschooling their children in their home country.
“The persecution of homeschoolers in Germany has dramatically intensified,” Michael P. Donnelly, staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association, confirmed today. “They are regularly fined thousands of dollars, threatened with imprisonment, or have the custody of their children taken away simply because they choose to home educate.”
A hearing has been scheduled tomorrow before a federal immigration judge in Memphis, Tenn., on the request from Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who fled Germany for the U.S. because of the threats they faced over their decision to homeschool their own children.
The HSLDA noted a decision to grant the asylum request could be a “major international embarrassment for Germany.”
The organization, which has been working with the family since members fled Germany in 2008, helped them file the request for political asylum.
Uwe Romeike, a music teacher, and his wife Hannelore have five children.
“The freedom we have to homeschool our children in Tennessee is wonderful,” the mother said in a statement to HSLDA. “We don’t have to worry about looking over our shoulder anymore wondering when the youth welfare officials will come or how much money we have to pay in fines.”
“We left family members, our home and a wonderful community in Germany, but the well-being of our children made it necessary,” the father said.
Donnelly confirmed, “If the political asylum application is granted it will be the first time America has ever granted political asylum to Christian homeschoolers fleeing from German persecution.”
The organization, the premiere group working on behalf of homeschoolers worldwide today, has been involved in the German fight for years.
In that nation, homeschooling effectively is illegal because of laws dating back to the pre-World War II move to raising and training children a responsibility of the government.
WND has reported on German homeschoolers who have been fined the equivalent of thousands of dollars, have been threatened with jail and have even watched their children be confined to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed with “school phobia.”
WND reported several years ago about the day police knocked on the door of the Romeikes and forcibly escorted their children to public school. Then WND reported again later when the family fled Germany, with the help of the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association, and settled in the U.S.
The family members are living in Tennessee after they funded their flight from persecution partly by selling Uwe Romeike’s grand pianos.
The parents wanted to provide their children’s education because of content in modern German textbooks that violates the family’s religious beliefs. The family said the objectionable material includes explicit lessons on sex, the promotion of the occult and witchcraft and an effort to teach children to disrespect authority figures.
HSLDA officials estimate there are some 400 homeschool families in Germany. Virtually all of them are either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
WND has documented repeatedly the crackdown within Germany on homeschooling families because of the government’s fear that children taught beliefs other than those in the state-endorsed textbooks would give rise to “parallel societies.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, previously wrote on the issue in a blog, explaining the German government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, the German government believes schooling is critical to socialization, as evident in its response to another set of parents who objected to police officers picking up their child 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. “… 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.”
Political asylum, HSLDA explained, is available to people already in the U.S. who fear persecution in their home country because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. HSLDA contends homeschoolers in Germany fit that description.
Lutz Gordens, German consul general for the southeast U.S., has defended his nation’s public education requirements.
“For reasons deeply rooted in history and our belief that only schools properly can ensure the desired level of excellent education, we (Germany) go a little bit beyond that path which other countries have chosen,” Gorgens said.