An administrative decision by the Department of Homeland Security means members of a German homeschool family whose grant of asylum in the U.S. later was withdrawn will not be returned to face the persecution homeschoolers face in Germany.
But advocates for homeschooling are warning that the underlying legal precedent in the Romeike family’s case suggests that the government always knows best what education is appropriate for children and can require them to attend a school that violates their religious beliefs.
The warning comes from Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which represented the family.
The Romeikes were facing massive punishment, including fines, jail time and loss of custody of their children, had they remained in Germany and continued homeschooling. They made the choice because of teaching in public schools on homosexuality, abortion and other issues that violated the family’s Christian faith.
An appeals court complied with the Obama administration’s request to withdraw the granting of asylum, and the Supreme Court recently left the decision undisturbed.
Last week, however, the DHS said it would put the case on a deferred status under which the family would be able to remain in the United States indefinitely.
While that is a victory for the Romeikes, Farris warned that Americans need to be watching what actually was determined in the courts.
In a statement posted on HSLDA’s website, Farris said “the dangers latent in this case must be understood, combated and reversed.”
“Once these dangerous ideas are unmasked, it becomes apparent that they pose real threats to the principles of freedom that virtually all Americans would have believed were solidly established.”
Farris noted the government “contended that forcing a parent to have their children attend a school that violates their religious beliefs does not offend a conviction that one should not be required to change.”
“Hence, the first dangerous rule to emerge from the Romeike case is that governments may order children to attend schools that violate the family’s religious beliefs. It was not a direct ruling in this case … but the conclusion is present just the same,” he said.
He said the arguments in support of that conclusion are equally alarming.
The Obama administration relied on a decision by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court in the American case.
That foreign court found: “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.”
Farris said the U.S. government argued the German court was simply trying to promote tolerance.
“Tolerance? Really? The aberrational German theory of ‘tolerance’ was clearly demonstrated by the facts in the record,” Farris said. “Another German appeals court held that it is appropriate to use the family courts to seek ‘the removal of the right [of parents] to determine the residence of the children and to decide on the children’s education.’ The same court held that it is ‘completely acceptable’ for courts to ‘enforce the handover of the children, by force if necessary and by means of entering and searching the parental home.’”
The German courts said physical force, including such components as SWAT teams with equipment to smash down doors on homes, was needed to prevent “the damage to the children, which is occurring through the continued exclusive teaching of the children of [sic] the mother at home,’” the HSLDA analysis noted.
“The court conceded that it was not concerned with academic issues – homeschooling could successfully transmit knowledge. It was the philosophical development of children that was at issue. The German court believed that it was ‘damaging’ to children to be taught only the philosophy of their mother,” said HSLDA.
Farris explained that the “controlling legal rule” in the case “is that persecution is proven when a government acts against a person either for an immutable characteristic or for a reason that one should not be required to change.”
Regarding homeschooling, the case sends the message that government is allowed to force parents to change their beliefs, he said.
The Obama Justice Department, on the issue, echoed George Washington University Law Professor Catherine Ross, Farris wrote.
Ross said: “In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children – at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.”
Farris disputed her argument, contending history and logic prove “tolerance will never be achieved by a government which is intolerant of religious minorities.”
“The long-term concern for American homeschoolers arising from the Romeike case is obvious,” he wrote. “If our government contends that Germany did not violate the principles of religious freedom when it banned homeschooling in order to gain philosophical control over children, then it implies that it would not violate religious freedom or parental rights if the United States decided to ban homeschooling for the same purpose. After all, we would simply be promoting tolerance and pluralism.”
He said what really is needed is a Parental Rights Amendment, which would tell government “to not interfere with our rights to raise our children.”
The alarm Farris expressed echoed that of several WND columnists.
Ambassador Alan Keyes wrote: “It’s telling that Obama and Holder held out against the Romeike family’s plea for asylum until, with the passive-aggressive support of the U.S. Supreme Court, they had established a legal precedent upholding the administration’s lawless view that an unalienable right of the natural family (rooted in the parents’ obligation conscientiously to care for the upbringing of their children) is a ‘mutable choice’ government is not bound to respect.”
WND Editor-in-Chief Joseph Farah wrote that people need to understand “the Romeikes are victims of a Nazi-era law that has never been overturned.”
“The 1938 law passed under the leadership of Adolf Hitler eliminated exemptions that would provide an open door for homeschoolers under the nation’s compulsory education laws.”
It was in 1937 when Hitler himself 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.”
WND reported when the DHS decision was announced that supporters of the family still believed an act of Congress might be needed to establish family rights again.