The chief of the Home School Legal Defense Association says it’s troubling that the Obama administration is silent on the human rights violations against homeschoolers around the the world and even in the United States.
“The State Department says it seeks to promote a greater respect for human rights on its website,” said HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris. “It lists specific examples, including freedom of expression and the protection of minorities, but what it doesn’t mention is religious freedom.
“It is clear that the administration doesn’t mind that religious homeschoolers in Germany are having their rights trampled upon by the way the Justice Department is going after the Romeike family,” he said, referring to a German family seeking asylum in the U.S. that faces deportation.
His comments came this week after four children were returned to German parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich in a dispute over homeschooling in Germany. The children late last month were forcibly taken from their parents by officers armed with a battering ram just as the children were starting their morning homeschool classes.
WND reported yesterday that the parents had no choice but to agree to have the children begin attending public school classes if they wanted them back.
Farris said the fact that the children were returned to their parents is a victory.
“It’s a small victory, but it’s still a victory,” Farris said. “When the parents told the authorities that they would send their kids back to school during the raid, they were told it was too late. What we’ve seen today is a reversal in the German courts caused by the mounting international pressure from human rights advocates. This is a promising start to what will hopefully be a reversal on Germany’s stance on homeschooling altogether.”
He said there still is a lot of work to be done for the German government to allow parents to homeschool.
“The way the parents were forced into complying with the government’s wishes is only part of how Germany mistreats its citizens,” he said. “The German government loves compromises as long as they ultimately get their way.”
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of international relations, said there appears to be some small progress.
“I see progress in our strategy to draw attention to this issue. We would much prefer that the authorities did not pursue such cruel measures like taking the Wunderlich children and wanting to send the Schaums to jail for six months. But these outrageous behaviors draw attention to the need for real reform in Germany. Mainstream German media is finally beginning to take notice. My hope is that as the media reports on what is being done to these really good families, politicians and the general public will change their attitudes and figure out a way to allow parents to have this option,” he said.
In the Romeike case, the family fled to the United States because German barred them from homeschooling. They obtained asylum, but the Obama administration appealed and obtained an order from a higher court that the family must return to Germany.
The dispute now is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Obama administration has argued in court that parents essentially have no right to determine how and what their children are taught, leaving the authority with the government.
A report from HSLDA argued that when a nation voluntarily agrees to international human rights obligations, the international community has the right to call the nation to account for violating the standards.
“This is especially true when the offending nation is Germany,” HSLDA said. “Modern human rights law was created in response to Nazi Germany. And when Germany today uses a law from that era to persecute families who do not want to send their children to the public schools to be indoctrinated by the government, it is the right and duty of every nation on earth to say: Germany keep your promises. Stop abusing the human rights of your citizens.”
HSLDA said it is “settled beyond dispute that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948 by the unanimous vote of the U.N. General Assembly arose, ‘out of the desire to respond forcefully to the evils perpetrated by [National Socialists in] Germany.’”
The declaration proclaims: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
HSLDA notes that “numerous human rights instruments have been drafted in reaction to ‘the intrusion of the fascist state into the family’ with its goal of seeking ‘to alienate children from their parents for the purpose of political indoctrination.’”
Germany’s homeschooling ban dates to the Hitler era, but the current German government has endorsed it fully. In 2003, the German Supreme Court handed down the Konrad decision in which “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling was banned.
Four years later, the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.” In that same year, the case of Katerina Plett, a homeschooling mother who moved with her children to Austria while her husband maintained the family residence in Germany, made its way to the highest criminal court in Germany.
That ruling said “the general public has an interest in thwarting the development of religiously or motivated parallel societies” and “integrating minorities in that regard.”
The court, stunningly, said homeschooling was a form of “child endangerment,” so authorities were justified in using force to take children.
Farris said although the case is in Germany, others should be concerned.
“I want the American homeschool community and other friends of liberty to take note – this mindset isn’t limited to Germany. Many U.S. policymakers and academics agree. … They are even working to see them realized here. So far, thankfully, homeschooling isn’t a legitimate reason (anymore) for the government to kidnap your children if they don’t go to state approved schools,” Farris said.
Donnelly said there are “already too many voices in the United States that want to advance the idea that the state must control education for the safety of the state or other reasons.”
“And this is the same rationale of the German government in perpetrating deplorable acts like this,” he said. “Why should we think it couldn’t or won’t happen here?”
Donnelly asked further: “Can’t a government that can order you to get health care tell you that you don’t qualify for certain life-saving treatments, tell parents they can’t allow their children to get certain kinds of counseling or that they must have a particular kind of medical treatments or that certain religious speech is intolerant and may not be permitted or must be punished, or that only national curricular standards are acceptable for all children, etc. – can’t a government like that order you to send your children to school? And then punish you if you don’t?”
See a report on the Romeikes:
It was in 1937 when Adolf Hitler said: "The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing."
Donnelly said the German homeschool ban has started creating issues in yet another case.
"We are gravely concerned about the case of Thomas and Marit Schaum, a family who face criminal charges over homeschooling. The prosecutor is demanding the parents each go to jail for six months," he said.
"Germany's national policy of persecuting homeschooling families must stop and we plan to continue the fight for freedom and for the rights of thousands of others in Germany and around the world to homeschool their children."
HSLDA said the Schaums live just a few hours north of the Wunderlichs, in Hulsa, Hessen.
The Schaums "are homeschooling parents of nine children and have homeschooled for many years in spite of persistent pressure from authorities. They have been engaged in court proceedings for some time and are now being threatened by Prosecutor Joachim Schnitzer Ling with unprecedented six-month long jail terms."
Previously, the longest jail terms handed down to homeschoolers in Germany were the three-months sentences for Juergen and Rosemary Dudek.
Their jail sentences, however, were overturned and replaced with a fine, although their criminal convictions remain on the record.
"The Schaums have successfully resisted the demands of the state and retained custody of their children," HSLDA said. "Four have graduated and are all successful in various fields of work and study. According to those close to the family, the social workers involved with the Schaum family have not taken drastic steps, like those in the Wunderlich case, but have instead allowed the school authorities to seek redress through the courts.
HSLDA said the Schaums were convicted and fined, but their attorney Andreas Vogt is appealing. Vogt represents about a dozen homeschooling families in Germany.