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 ↑
Citing a European court ruling, U.S. immigration authorities are arguing in an appeal that a family that fled Germany and gained asylum in Tennessee claiming their government persecuted them for homeschooling should be returned to their home country.
WND reported in January when the federal immigration judge said in his ruling, “We can’t expect every country to follow our Constitution. The world might be a better place if it did. However, the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”
The decision in the Memphis, Tenn., hearing granted permission to Romeike and their five children to remain in the U.S., according to the Virginia-based HSLDA, which has been working on the family’s case.
“This decision finally recognizes that German homeschoolers are a specific social group that is being persecuted by a Western democracy,” Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for HSLDA, said at the time.
“It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children.”
But today, the HSLDA called it a “deeply disturbing” development for ICE to appeal Burman’s decision.
The appeal, submitted to the Board of Immigration Appeals in Fairfax, Va., claimed homeschoolers are too “amorphous” to be a “particular social group,” the HSLDA said.
Further, the agency claims, the U.S. “law has recognized the broad power of the state to compel school attendance and regulate curriculum and teacher certification.”
ICE sought application of the Konrad case in the European Court of Human Rights that “the public education laws of Germany do not violate basic human rights.” The ruling elaborated that parents had no right to direct the education of their own children because that was a responsibility of the state.
“In other words, it appears that ICE is arguing that U.S. judges should follow international law – rather than U.S. law,” the HSLDA said in an alert.
“American judges should use American law alone in making decisions about cases in American courts,” said Michael Smith, president of the HSLDA. “Polls show that Americans by an overwhelming margin reject the idea of using international law in American courts to decide American cases. The use of international law in American courts is a threat to American justice and should be opposed.”
ICE argued that the U.S. government simply could ban all homeschooling – and that should disqualify the granting of asylum.
“ICE further asserts that Germany’s harsh treatment of homeschoolers is mere prosecution, not persecution. ICE lawyers wrote that ‘[e]ven were such fear[s] objectively reasonable, these sanctions would only amount to prosecution,’” the HSLDA said.
“ICE argues that the judge’s ruling is ‘speculative’ because sanctions had been applied in a ‘limited number of circumstances’ and that the Romeikes had failed to ‘make any effort to locate an acceptable alternative school.’”
But the HSLDA said those claims had been argued in the Romeike case and shown to be false.
Michael Donnelly, a staff attorney for the organization and director of its International Relations division, said, “It is disappointing but not surprising that ICE has appealed.”
He continued, “Judge Burman appropriately noted that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and his decision reflects U.S. law which upholds the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing their children as an enduring American tradition, entitling the family to protection from persecution.
“ICE argues that Germany’s denial of a parent’s right to homeschool for any reason is acceptable. It is shameful that ICE, and by extension the U.S. government, supports the persecution of German homeschoolers,” Donnelly said.
ICE officials declined a WND request for comment.
HSLDA confirmed the persecution of homeschoolers in Germany has been intensifying over the past several years.
The family members are living in Tennessee after they funded their flight partly by selling the grand pianos that belonged to Uwe Romeike, a music teacher.
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.
Germany effectively has made homeschooling illegal because of laws dating back to the pre-World War II move as Hitler rose to power and tried to make raising and training children a responsibility of the government.
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 contended homeschoolers in Germany fit that description.
Lutz Gorgens, 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.
The Romeike family, from Bissinggen, Germany, fled to the U.S. in 2008.
Rather than being concerned about the welfare of the children, government officials sought to stamp out divergent views, the immigration judge had concluded. While Germany is a democratic country and a U.S. ally, the judge wrote, its policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”
The HSLDA has documented that in 2003 the highest administrative court in Germany ruled in the Konrad case it was allowable for parents who travel, such as circus performers, to homeschool children. But homeschooling was not allowed for reasons of conscience.
The nation’s highest criminal court said in the 2006 Paul-Plette case that the government could take custody of children whose parents wanted to homeschool for reasons of conscience.
In another case in which the HSLDA has been involved, German father Juergen Dudek was sentenced to 90 days in jail for homeschooling, a penalty later reduced to a $300 fine.