For the second time, the U.S. Supreme Court has intervened in a homeschooling family’s battle against an Obama administration deportation order that would require them to return to Germany, where they say they face persecution because of their beliefs.
The most recent order from the Supreme Court instructs U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to respond to a petition by the Home School Legal Defense Association for the high court to hear arguments in the case of Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their six children.
The family in 2008 fled to the U.S. from Germany, where homeschooling is illegal, and two years later obtained an asylum order from a judge.
The Obama administration, however, appealed and obtained an order to return the family to Germany.
The Obama administration has been urging the Supreme Court to ignore the case and let the family be deported.
HSLDA says the latest move is probably a good sign for the Romeikes.
“The government initially waived its right to respond, apparently thinking that Romeike v. Holder wasn’t worth of the court’s consideration,” said James Mason, the director of litigation for the homeschoolers’ organization.
“Clearly, someone in the Supreme Court disagrees. While the odds of the court taking any case are very low, this has increased the chances – but it is impossible to predict whether the court will ultimately accept the case.”
The high court originally was to announce Tuesday whether it would hear the Romeikes’ case, but now the Justice Department has until Dec. 19 to respond.
“We are pleased by the court’s interest in the issues we have presented in our petition,” said HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris. “Romeike v. Holder gives the court an opportunity to address important religious freedom and human rights issues. We hope that after due consideration of the government’s brief they will agree to hear our case.”
The Romeikes left behind in Germany thousands of dollars in fines and the possibility of jail sentences for homeschooling, which under a Nazi-era law remains illegal.
They were granted asylum in 2010.
“We are extremely grateful for the work of HSLDA in support of our family,” Uwe Romeike said in a statement released by HSLDA. “We hope that the Supreme Court will hear our appeal and that we may be able to stay here. America is a land of freedom and we cannot go back to Germany where our children will be taken from us just because we homeschool.”
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s director for international affairs, noted Germany is a party to numerous international treaties.
“Those treaties and fundamental international human rights standards recognize the role of parents in selecting the kind of education their children should receive,” he pointed out. “Banning this entire form of education violates those treaties and the rights of all German parents.”
He said German lawmakers need to update national policy to bring it in line with international human rights and allow parents this basic freedom in education.
He said HSLDA is working with German homeschooling advocates and others to achieve that goal.
WND has reported on the case since in began 2006 with police officers appearing on the Romeike’s doorstep to forcibly take their children to a local public school.
HSLDA, in its petition, explained that German officials have confirmed the purpose of their ongoing repression of homeschooling is to prevent “religious and philosophical minorities” from developing into “parallel societies.”
“Human rights standards make it plain that, although a nation may require compulsory attendance and may impose reasonable rules related to educational quality, no nation may exercise philosophical control over a child’s education contrary to the parents’ belief,” the HSLDA statement said.
HSLDA’s founder and president, Michael Farris, noted that international human rights protections were written in response to Germany’s practices in the Nazi era.
“It is impossible to distinguish the German desire for philosophical conformity today from that of the 1930s,” he said. “Children do not belong to any government in any decade.”
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.”
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.
The 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, remarkably, said homeschooling was a form of “child endangerment,” so authorities were justified in using force to take children.
At the lower court level, the Obama administration said it agreed with Germany’s perspective.
Senior Litigation Counsel Robert N. Markle in Washington 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.”
The German court said 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 court said. “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.”
Children have been seized in several cases, most recently in September when armed police officers equipped with a battering ram forcibly took four children from German parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich because they were being homeschooled.
WND reported later the children were return to the parents after they were given no choice but to agree to have the children begin attending public school classes.
In April, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals sustained the Obama administration’s revocation of asylum granted to the Romeikes, after the Supreme Court ordered the Justice Department to respond.
The original immigration judge, Lawrence O. Burman, granted the Romeike family asylum on Jan. 26, 2010, under the Federal Immigration and Naturalization Act because Germany’s national policy of suppressing homeschooling violated their religious faith and because German authorities were improperly motivated to suppress homeschoolers as a social group.
Donnelly warned of the larger implications of the case.
“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 reports on the Romeikes:
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.'"
Homeschooling crackdowns in Sweden, Scotland and the Netherlands have followed parts of the German model already.
In Sweden, the nation's Supreme Court ordered custody of a boy permanently removed from his parents over homeschooling.
The high court refused to review a lower court's decision to forcibly terminate Christer and Annie's parental rights to Domenic, who was seized by armed officers from the family when he was 7.
The Supreme Court of Sweden delivered a "perfunctory order" rejecting the family's appeal and, in effect, delivering its "death sentence" in the case.
The Romeike brief explains the worry about persecution is valid, because Germany "enforces its ban on most homeschooling by threatening jail, excessive fines, and the loss of custody of one's children."
Uwe Andreas Josef Romeike, and his wife, Hannelore, have seven children, who, if forced by Obama to return to Germany and enroll in public school will have their Christian beliefs "undermined" by teachings on "evolution, disrespect for authority figures, bullying, and witchcraft," the appeal states.
German schools, the appeal notes, also promote abortion and homosexuality.