The Romeike family (HSLDA image)
The battle lines over homeschooling rights overseas and in the United States have been sharpened by the publication of a law journal article that concludes that Germany does persecute homeschoolers and that the first waves of its impact already have hit the U.S.
The article, “Germany Homeschoolers as ‘Particular Society Group’: Evaluation Under Current U.S. Asylum Jurisprudence,” was written by Miki Kawashima Matrician and published recently in the 2011 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review.
It focuses on the case of the family of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who in 2010 were granted asylum in the U.S. because Germany was persecuting them as homeschoolers, only to see the Barack Obama administration appeal the decision.
The law article also already has been submitted as evidence in the pending Bureau of Immigration Appeals case regarding the family, whose members settled in Tennessee after fleeing their homeland in the face of changes in the law that would allow the government to simply take custody of the children.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, which defends homeschooling rights worldwide, has been contributing to the arguments on behalf of the Romeike family. Michael Donnelly, the organization’s director of international relations, said there is “a strong argument in favor of upholding Judge [Lawrence] Burman’s decision to grant asylum to the Romeike family.”
“We are hopeful that this new evidence will further demonstrate to the BIA that homeschoolers in Germany are members of a particular social group and that Germany’s treatment of them is persecution and therefore that they qualify for protection under U.S. asylum law,” he said.
WND reported earlier on the U.S. government’s insistence that the asylum determination be reversed and the family should be returned to Germany.
That followed the decision by the judge in the case to grant asylum after he stated, “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.”
- In 2006 the family withdrew the children from Germany’s public schools and started homeschooling because of concerns over content in modern German textbooks that violated the family’s religious beliefs. The family said the objectionable material included explicit lessons on sex, the promotion of the occult and witchcraft and an effort to teach children to disrespect authority figures.
- Weeks later, German police officers entered the Romeike home without a written court order and “forcibly” removed the children to escort them to public school.
- $10,000 in fines accumulated for the family.
- Then after German court rulings that year and in 2007 “paved the way for the German government to take custody of homeschooled children, the Romeikes fled Germany for fear of losing their children.
- The Romeikes entered the U.S. as tourists in 2008 and requested asylum based on the persecution threatened by the German government.
- An immigration judge in 2010 granted asylum, but the Obama administration immediately filed an appeal, which remains pending
“The BIA should find that all German homeschoolers comprise a ‘particular social group,’ regardless of whether the Romeike family successfully established a claim of ‘well-founded fear of persecution,'” the article argues.
The problem is that a Nazi-era law in Germany in 1938, under the leadership of Adolf Hitler, eliminated exemptions that would provide an open door for homeschoolers under the nation’s compulsory education laws.
The author warned that such “unfavorable treatment” is not unique to Germany.
“There is a robust debate in the United States and elsewhere regarding the validity of homeschooling as a means of education. For instance, in February 2008 the Second District Court of Appeals in Los Angeles handed down a surprising decision upholding the constitutionality of a state statute prohibiting homeschooling for children between the ages of 6 and 18 unless their parents possess teaching credentials,” the author noted.
While that decision later was reversed, there also is a movement “to end homeschooling in United Nations member countries on the theory that a child’s right to education may be vindicated only by compulsory education in traditional schools outside the home,” she wrote.
Further, WND has reported on social services agencies in Sweden taking possession of a child, against the wishes of the parents, enforced by the presence of armed police officers.
But in the law, there are several provisions that support homeschooling, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The first states that “everyone has the right to education,” “elementary education shall be compulsory” and “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children,” the author noted.
The ICESCR recognizes, “The liberty of parents … to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the state and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.”
And the European Convention states, “The state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
The analysis explains that German law simple diverges from international conventions.
Thus, having been penalized financially and otherwise, and threatened with the loss of their children, the Romeikes fled persecution.
Since the U.S. refugee law is based on international conventions that define a refugee as someone facing persecution or with a “well-founded fear of persecution” on account of “race, religion, nationality, member in a particular social group, or political opinion,” the family clearly falls into the “particular social group,” the article explains.
“The Romeikes should qualify,” the article said. “Their beliefs are ‘so fundamental to their identities or consciences that they ought not to be required to be changed.'”
Further, several states already have adopted resolutions in support of homeschooling rights, the article noted.
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.”
The Romeike family funded its flight from Germany partly by selling the grand pianos that belonged to Uwe Romeike, a music teacher.
HSLDA estimates there are some 400 to 500 homeschool families in Germany. Virtually all of them are either forced into hiding or facing court actions.
Germany effectively makes homeschooling illegal because of laws that 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.”