It was early one morning in August 2013. Summer break was ending, and the Wunderlich children in Germany, ages 7-14, were preparing for their homeschool lessons.
Without warning, more than 30 SWAT officers, dispatched by social workers seeking to separate the children from their Bible-teaching parents, surged onto their property.
The officers brought a battering ram to take down the front door.
Dirk Wunderlich, the father, saw the raid developing and quickly opened the door to try to lower the tension.
It only allowed the officers in, and they promptly seized the children by force.
The case centering on homeschooling — which Germany bans to control the formation of children — is under appeal to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, the highest level in the court.
The ultimate decision could have far-reaching impact on all sorts of family issues across the continent.
According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, the family on Tuesday asked for a review of their case by the Grand Chamber. The move follows a lower panel’s ruling in January that the family’s rights were not violated when dozens of cops and social workers forced their way into their home.
“Despite the right of parents to direct the education of their children being protected in international law, the court ruled that the dawn raid on the family home was neither ‘particularly harsh (nor) exceptional.’ We will continue to support the Wunderlich family as they seek affirmation of their rights at the highest level of the European Court of Human Rights,” said Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International and lead counsel for the Wunderlich family.
The children eventually were returned to the family after the incident in 2013, but their legal status remains unclear.
“The first ruling of the European Court of Human Rights ignores the fact that Germany’s policy on homeschooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing. It is alarming to see that this was not recognized by the most influential human rights court in Europe. The ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom,” said Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International.
“The previous ruling was very disheartening for our family and the many families affected by this in Germany. After years of legal struggles, it was extremely frustrating for us and our children. It is upsetting that the European Court of Human Rights did not recognize the injustices we suffered at the hands of the German authorities. We are hopeful that the Grand Chamber will see the ways we tried, for many years, to engage with the authorities, and the completely disproportionate action they ultimately took,” said Dirk Wunderlich.
He explained that he and his wife, Petra, decided to educate their children at home “because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”
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The Wunderlichs long had fought Germany’s requirement that all children attend public or private schools. They have argued in multiple court cases that the state schools, in effect, are teaching an anti-Christian faith system to which they do not want their children subjected.
Government officials have said the family’s Christian values are of no account.
The original report on the battering-ram attack grabbed the attention of millions of readers.
It was a combination of court and social work action against the Wunderlichs in Germany that had authorized police to use force against the family, who were in violation of a law first imposed in Germany under the Hitler regime.
The nation since then has signed a number of international human rights agreements explicitly protecting the rights of parents to direct the education of their children.
Hitler denounced homeschooling, insisting the government has a claim on 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.”