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Only 24 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case of a homeschooling family fighting deportation to Germany where it would face punishment for not enrolling in a public school, the federal bureaucracy blinked.
The Romeikes will be allowed to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, the Department of Homeland Security told the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been defending the family in court.
Michael Farris, HSLDA’s chairman, wrote that a DHS supervisor called a member of his legal team to announced that the Romeike family has been granted “indefinite deferred status.”
It means the Romeikes can stay in the U.S. permanently, unless they are convicted of a crime.
Farris called it “an incredible victory that can only be credited to our Almighty God.”
“We also want to thank those …. who spoke up on this issue – including that long ago White House petition. We believe that the public outcry made this possible while God delivered the victory,” he said.
“This is an amazing turnaround in 24 hours. Praise the Lord.”
Members of the family were granted asylum in the U.S. in 2010 when a federal judge ruled they would be subject to persecution for their beliefs if returned to Germany.
But the Obama administration refused to accept the ruling and appealed to a higher court, which ruled the family should be sent back to Germany. The Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene left the ruling standing.
The Obama administration’s decision to allow the family to stay still leaves the precedent set by the appeals court.
Supporters suggested it might take a special act of Congress to protect the family.
Uwe and Hannalore Romeike and their children, now numbering seven, fled Germany to the U.S. in 2008 because of threats of fines, jail time, loss of their children and more, because they were homeschooling.
They chose home education, they said, because of their strong Christian beliefs, which conflicted with German public school teaching, particularly concerning moral issues.
The Obama administration had received pressure from supporters of the Romeikes. The Journal Gazette reported Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-Ind., called on Obama to intervene on behalf of the family.
Stutzman said Obama “should reject the European belief that children belong to the state and stand instead with families suffering persecution for exercising the basic right to educate their children.”
“Americans have always welcomed those who flee their homelands in pursuit of freedom and President Obama has an opportunity to honor that commitment,” he said.
Earlier, a White House website petition collected tens of thousands of signatures in support of the family, and Stutzman had been joined by dozens of other members of Congress to lobby for the family.
Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., noted his family is homeschooled.
Todd Starnes, at Townhall.com, wrote that the case had pushed Christians in an east Tennessee community to consider civil disobedience should the Romeikes be deported.
“It may require civil disobedience with this bunch,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in the report. “I am furious about this. You’ve got law-abiding people who did everything right who simply want to homeschool their kids. We used to be that great shining city on a hill. There’s some rust on that city if we are doing free people this way.”
Roe said he didn’t “know what the Germans are thinking, but we’re not Germany.”
“I don’t want to be Germany. I don’t want to be Europe. I want to be America. And right now we’re not acting very much like the America I know with the administration we have,” he said.
During the course of the case, Attorney General Eric Holder argued that homeschooling is a “mutable choice,” meaning that the government can force parents to do as it wishes without violating any rights.
Farris offered an interpretation of Holder’s statement.
“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.
In an appearance on the Fox News show “Fox and Friends,” Farris said he was glad Obama “wasn’t in charge in 1620.”
“The government’s arguments in this case confuse equal persecution with equal protection and demonstrate a serious disregard for individual religious liberty,” he said. “I really wonder what would’ve happened to the Pilgrims under this administration.”
Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said the “Romeikes are an inspiring family of great faith and courage.”
“They came to the United States as modern day pilgrims seeking protection from a country that ignores its obligations to protect basic human rights,” he said. “They are grateful for the welcome they have received from American families and hope that they will be able to continue to homeschool their children in freedom. Germany’s increasingly harsh treatment of homeschoolers is unacceptable and the court’s refusal to take up this case does not change that fact or diminish the threat to homeschooling families in Germany.”
The anti-homeschool law in Germany has a dark origin: It was Adolf Hitler’s idea, and the nation has never changed it.
It was in 1937 when Hitler himself said that 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,” the dictator said. “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.”
A year later, the Nazis adopted a law that eliminated exemptions that previously provided an open door for homeschoolers under the nation’s compulsory education laws.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, a few years ago supported the law, writing on a blog that Germany “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.”
WND has reported on the Romeike case since in began 2006 with police officers appearing on the family’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.
In Germany, children having been seized from their parents in several cases, most recently last 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 returned to the parents after they were given no choice but to agree to have the children begin attending public-school classes.
In the Romeike case, the original immigration judge, Lawrence O. Burman, granted the family asylum on Jan. 26, 2010, under the Federal Immigration and Naturalization Act. The judge reasoned that Germany’s national policy of suppressing homeschooling violated the family’s religious faith and German authorities were improperly motivated to suppress homeschoolers as a social group.