Congress is considering a bill to help homeschool families abroad who face fines, jail time and even loss of their children for their choice of education.
“H.R. 1153 allows families to take asylum in the United States if they are persecuted for failure to comply with any law or regulation that prevents the exercise of the individual right of that family to direct the upbringing and education of their children,” explain the Home School Legal Defense Association.
The bill specifically includes homeschool families.
The measure, which recently passed the House Judiciary Committee with a significant majority, also addresses unaccompanied alien minors and children, and would suspend foreign assistance for nations that fail to cooperate with U.S. human trafficking crackdowns.
As WND has reported, homeschool parents in Germany, for example, faced a SWAT team’s battering ram when police demanded to take their children into custody for being homeschooled.
The parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, are back in court possible four-year jail terms from a judge who has warned, “The law is the law.”
WND reported in 2013 when the government took custody of the children, then ages 7-14, from their Darmstadt, Germany, home.
The SWAT team, authorized by a judge to use force if necessary, took the children and the Wunderlichs they wouldn’t see them again soon because they were violating federal law by homeschooling them.
Dirk Wunderlich told the homeschool group: “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.”
Weeks later, the children were returned home, and a year later, an appeals court decided both social workers and parents should be criticized, but the action against the children was “disproportional” to the allegations. The ruling returned custody of the children to their parents.
But now the HSLDA says the government still is persecuting the family.
“We had hoped the judge, who seemed open-minded and friendly, might give us a chance,” Dirk Wunderlich told the organization, “But no, he said he could not: The law is the law.”
The ruling has been called “groundbreaking” by Michael Donnelly, the director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has fought on behalf of the families.
He cited the case of the Romeike family. Uwe and Hannalore Romeike were threatened with 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.
They fled to the U.S. and sought asylum, only to be turned away by the Obama administration.
Advocates for homeschooling at the time warned 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 new bill, H.R. 1153, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2015, would make it possible for families who are treated harshly over homeschooling to find refuge in the United States.
When the bill starting working its way through Congress, Donnelly said a country that “bans homeschooling is violating the basic human rights of their citizens.”
“It makes me proud that our Congress is willing to make a statement like this – that this right should be recognized and protected. I think this bill is going to kickstart serious discussion among Germans and policy makers in other countries, too. What are they going to say when hundreds of families start seeking asylum in the United States fleeing this kind of harsh treatment?”
The idea comes from Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, Daniel Webster of Florida and Robert Goodlatte of Virginia, all Republicans. HSLDA reported they have include “specific language that would allow up to 500 grants of asylum to families fleeing homeschool persecution.”
The Romeike family, which is staying in the U.S. because the Obama administration eventually decided to defer their prosecution, would be able to reopen their case, HSLDA said.
Homeschooling has been banned in Germany since the Hitler era. 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.”