The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered the Department of Justice under Attorney General Eric Holder to respond to a request for rehearing by a homeschooling family that claims it will face persecution if forced to return to Germany as the White House wants.
The order itself doesn’t guarantee that the petition for rehearing will be granted in the case involving the Romeike family, but it does give the family and its supporters reason to be optimistic.
James R. Mason, director of litigation for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which represents the family, said the order from the court was a step in the right direction.
He noted that most requests for a full panel of the appeals court are summarily denied without any further action.
“Here, the court has requested that the Justice Department respond, indicating that the court is taking our petition seriously,” he said.
HSLDA filed its request for rehearing May 29, arguing that the three-judge 6th Circuit panel that heard the case April 23 failed to correctly apply its own cases to the Romeikes’ situation. Michael Farris, founder and chairman of HSLDA, who is leading the effort on behalf of the Romeikes, hopes the full court will take up the case.
“The opinion of the three-judge panel ignored important evidence, muddled the law, and, most importantly, missed the opportunity to defend a quintessential American value – the freedom for parents to educate their children,” he said. “Germany prohibits this behavior, and America should be a refuge for those who seek this freedom.”
HSLDA said the Romeikes, who fled from Germany to the United States to legally homeschool, are hopeful that a rehearing might result in a better outcome for their family.
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs who works with persecuted homeschoolers worldwide, echoed Farris’ sentiments.
“Germany persecutes homeschoolers,” Donnelly said. “Exorbitant fines, custody threats, and imprisonment over homeschooling should be seen for what it is – persecution. It is unconscionable for the 6th Circuit to ignore black and white edicts from the German Supreme Court explicitly condoning this behavior. Germany’s countrywide federal and state policies that essentially ban home education should not be accepted as complying with basic human rights standards.”
In the request for rehearing, the HSLDA argued: “The Romeikes have been subjected to a great injustice by the panel’s approach. But they will not be the last legitimate applicants for asylum who are harmed by this improper invention of a new asylum standard of ‘easy cases’ and ‘hard cases.’”
The petition pointed out the panel ruling never mentioned the German high court’s admission that Germany’s ban on homeschooling is motivated by the desire to suppress religious and philosophical “parallel societies,” such as homeschoolers.
The panel also never mentioned that the German government targets homeschoolers to prevent “the damage to the children, which is occurring through the continued exclusive teaching of the children of the mother at home.”
“It’s one thing to enforce truancy laws because a child refuses to go to school,” said Farris. “It’s another thing to force children to go to school because the German government doesn’t want religious or philosophical parallel societies to exist.”
Judge Jeffrey Sutton had said that while the U.S. grants safe haven to people with a well-founded fear of persecution, it does not necessarily give it to citizens of countries with laws that differ from the U.S.
WND has reported on the case since its inception. Just weeks ago, HSLDA officials launched a petition on a White House website to seek help. The White House policy is to provide a response to petitions that collect more than 100,000 signatures, but nothing has been heard since the threshold was passed more than a month ago.
Farris warned that the court’s position has far-reaching consequences.
“When the United States government says that homeschooling is a mutable choice, it is saying that a government can legitimately coerce you to change this choice,” Farris said. “In other words, you have no protected right to choose what type of education your children will receive. We should understand that in these arguments, something very concerning is being said about the liberties of all Americans.
“I’m glad Obama wasn’t in charge in 1620,” Farris said in an appearance on “Fox and Friends.” “The government’s arguments in this case confuse equal persecution with equal protection and demonstrate a serious disregard for individual religious liberty. I really wonder what would’ve happened to the Pilgrims under this administration.”
Donnelly said the organization got involved after learning that the Romeikes were being fined thousands of dollars and the government planned to put a lien on their home.
“I knew that this was only a starting point, and that it was very likely that very severe action would soon follow. Homeschooling is not tolerated in Germany and Uwe [Romeike] said he might have to leave the country. We are privileged to represent these modern-day Pilgrims.”
The German Supreme Court said because of the issue of socialization, the state, not parents, decides how children are educated.
“This is dangerous precedent. One that Americans ignore at their peril,” Donnelly said.
“This is the nightmare of German parents – even non-homeschooling parents have suffered by being fined and sent to jail seeking to exercise reasonable discretion over their children’s education such as opting them out of certain objectionable presentations of material that violates their convictions. German states don’t tolerate differences in education – they just want uniformity. But fundamental human rights and even international law requires Germany to respect the superior right of parents over education of children.”
As WND reported, police officers appeared on their Romeike’s doorstep in Germany in 2006 to forcibly take their children to a local public school.
Germany is notorious for its attacks on homeschooling families. In one case several years ago, a young teen was taken from her family and put into a psychiatric ward because she was homeschooled. Fines and even jail terms are common.
WND previously reported on a law journal article that undermines the Obama administration’s arguments.
The article, “Germany Homeschoolers as ‘Particular Society Group’: Evaluation Under Current U.S. Asylum Jurisprudence,” was written by Miki Kawashima Matrician and published in the 2011 Boston College International and Comparative Law Review.
The journal article said, “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 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.
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 is evident in its response to 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.”