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 ↑
The Romeike Family
The U.S. Supreme Court will be asked to protect a Germany homeschooling family from the persecution members would face if they are returned to their home country, according to officials with the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The organization has confirmed that it will appeal to the high court in the case involving the Romeike family. They fled to the United States from Germany several years ago to escape the persecution the government there imposes on homeschooling families, and a judge granted them asylum.
However, the Obama administration objected to allowing them to remain in the U.S., and won an appeals court reversal of that asylum ruling. The HSLDA has been working with the family on the case.
Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the organization, said, “The German High Court is on record for saying that religious homeschoolers should be targeted and severely punished, yet our Justice Department sees nothing wrong with that.
“The attorney general and Sixth Circuit are ignoring critical evidence and are trying to send back this family who is trying to stay in our country legally. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will go the other way and see what the original immigration judge saw: that this family and other religious homeschoolers in Germany are being persecuted for what they believe is the right way to raise their children,” he said.
“This is not over yet,” he continued, “We are taking this case to the Supreme Court because we firmly believe that this family deserves the freedom that this country was founded on. Despite Friday’s order, the Sixth Circuit’s opinion contains two clear errors: First, they wholly ignored Germany’s proclamation that a central reason for banning homeschooling is to suppress religious minorities. Second, the Sixth Circuit erred when it failed to address the claim that parental rights are so fundamental that no government can deny parents the right to choose an alternative to the public schools.”
Family members face thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time if they return to Germany. HSLDA contends that this is grounds for a well-founded fear of persecution that would grant them asylum under U.S. law.
A panel of the 6th Circuit had overturned the judge’s asylum ruling, and the full court denied a rehearing request.
The U.S. Department of Justice earlier revealed in a court filing in the case that it agrees with the philosophy of the German government that bureaucrats can punish homeschooling parents.
The agency contends parental rights to keep children free from instruction that violates faith essentially are negligible when the government’s goal is an “open society.”
“The goal in Germany is for an ‘open, pluralistic society,’” wrote the government’s pleading, signed by Senior Litigation Counsel Robert N. Markle in Washington.
German law, he argued, requires attendance at government schools, and punishment is levied against anyone failing to comply, even due to religious objections.
His argument to the appellate court cited a German court decision, which stated: “The general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area. Integration does not only require that the majority of the population does not exclude religious or ideological minorities, but, in fact, that these minorities do not segregate themselves and that they do not close themselves off to a dialogue with dissenters and people of other beliefs. Dialogue with such minorities is an enrichment for an open pluralistic society. The learning and practicing of this in the sense of experienced tolerance is an important lesson right from the elementary school stage. The presence of a broad spectrum of convictions in a classroom can sustainably develop the ability of all pupils in being tolerant and exercising the dialogue that is a basic requirement of democratic decision-making process.”
The Romeikes had withdrawn their children from German schools over teachings on sex, violence and other issues that conflicted with their Christian faith.
The DOJ also cited international court rulings, noting: “The European Court of Human Rights has held that parents could not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of the parents’ convictions, because the child has an independent right to education.”
Such rulings in Europe have been used to argue that it is the state that makes decisions about education for children, not parents.
Farris had 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.”
HSLDA noted an immigration judge who heard the Romeikes’ case ruled the family had a well-founded fear of persecution if returned to German and granted them asylum.
Their children, they said, had been undergoing indoctrination in Germany, where schools teach sexual permissiveness and leftist political ideology, and the family decided to act.
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international affairs who works with persecuted homeschoolers worldwide, said Germany “persecutes homeschoolers.”
“Exorbitant fines, custody threats, and imprisonment over homeschooling should be seen for what it is – persecution,” he said. “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.”
The German Supreme Court said that 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 the 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.
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.”