The German family that was confronted at its front door by a government SWAT team armed with a battering ram because they were homeschooling is fighting back.
And the result could be an affirmation of parental rights for the 800 million Europeans who are subject to the European Court of Human Rights.
“I sincerely hope the European Court of Human Rights will reaffirm that the state has no right to abduct children from their family just because they are being homeschooled,” said Dirk Wunderlich, the father.
“Our youngest daughter was only 4 years old when the authorities broke into our home and took our children without warning. She couldn’t stop crying for 11 days. Her older sister hasn’t laughed since this incident. We chose to educate our children at home, because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”
WND reported in August 2013 when four of the Wunderlich children, at the time ages 7 to 14, were forcibly removed from their Darmstadt, Germany, home by police armed with a battering ram.
The case was documented minute-by-minute by the Home School Legal Defense Association, HSLDA, the recognized experts on homeschooling worldwide.
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich already had battled the bureaucracy in their home country over its World War II-era requirement that all children submit to the indoctrination programs in the nation’s public schools.
But the raid gave parents around the world, including the millions who saw the WND report, a shock.
HSLDA reported the paperwork that authorized police officers and social workers to use force on the children – observers described the raid as “brutal and vicious” – contained no claims of mistreatment within the family. But it was carried out by a team of 20 social workers, police and special agents who stormed the family’s home at 8 a.m., just as they were starting class for the day, on the authorization of a Judge Koenig.
“Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate ‘with the authorities to send the children to school,’ the judge also authorized the use of force ‘against the children’ … reasoning that such force might be required because the children had ‘adopted the parents’ opinions’ regarding homeschooling and that ‘no cooperation could be expected’ from either the parents or the children,” HSLDA said at the time.
“I looked through a side window and saw many people, police and special agents, all armed. They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it,” Dirk Wunderlich said.
Now the Alliance Defending Freedom International has submitted arguments to the European Court of Human Rights in the case on behalf of the Wunderlichs.
“The eventual judgment in the case will have wide implications regarding parental rights for the 800 million Europeans who are subject to the rulings of the court,” the lawyers reported.
“Children deserve the loving care and protection of their parents. It is a serious thing for a country to interfere with the parent-child bond, so it should only do so where there is a real risk of serious harm,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke.
He’s been lead counsel for the family in their case against the government.
“Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions – something they believe they can do better in the home environment. The right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is a fundamental right protected in all of the major human rights treaties. Germany has signed on to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences,” he said.
While Germany’s ban on homeschooling dates back about a century, the nation since then has signed a number of international human rights agreements explicitly providing protections for the rights of parents to direct the education of their children.
Germany’s public school system has been criticized by many for teaching anti-Christian perspectives, a pro-abortion stance and much more.
The conflict between what the government demands parents do their children, and what some parents want regarding schooling, never has been resolved, officials said. But the ECHR ruling should shed light, ADF said.
“Children are born to parents, not governments, and Germany’s homeschooling policy is completely out of step with other free democracies that allow home education as part of their free and civil societies,” said Mike Donnelly, the HSLDA director of global outreach.
“Human rights experts at the U.N. and scholars worldwide have found that home education is a natural, fundamental and protected human right. The court must hold Germany accountable to respect this,” he said.
WND reported two years ago when the court fight escalated. After the children were returned to their parents, a German appeals court decided the action against the children was “disproportional” to the situation.
But the government continued to threaten the parents with jail terms of up to four years for their offense of not having their children in public schools.
The German government repeatedly has fretted about homeschool families following “parallel societies” if they are not required to submit their children to the state indoctrination in government institutions.
It was Adolf Hitler who denounced homeschooling and stated the government’s claim to the minds of children.
“The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow,” he said. “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.”
Homeschooling has been banned in Germany since then. WND has reported over the years on a German teen who was ordered into a psychiatric ward for being homeschooled and parents who were sentenced to jail terms for homeschooling their children.
The current German government has endorsed Hitler’s view of homeschooling. 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.”
HSLDA previously has documented in the Konrad and Plett cases that the German government considers homeschooling to be child abuse, even though it is recognized as a right by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.