A German family that has been prosecuted by their government for homeschooling has won a victory in court.
A judge ruled that Dirk and Petra Wunderlich can maintain custody of their minor children while an international court decides whether or not to take their case.
WND reported in April the family’s lawyers appealed to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights to support their parental rights.
Any ruling could have far-reaching implications for families across the continent.
Homeschooling is banned in Germany.
The appeal followed a lower-court ruling in January that the family’s rights were not violated when dozens of police officers and social workers staged a SWAT-style, dawn raid on the home that included a battering ram.
The August 2013 raid took place as summer break was ending and the Wunderlich children, ages 7-14 then, 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 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.
The Alliance Defending Freedom International said a court in Darmstadt, Germany, decided Tuesday that the minor children will remain with their parents.
The judge who originally handled the case in 2013 had begun new proceedings against the family. But he was replaced by another judge “on grounds of bias,” and the new decision is a victory for the family.
ADF International commented: “The right of parents to direct the education of their children is a fundamental right, protected in international law. We are pleased to see that the German court respected this right and acknowledged that the Wunderlich children are doing well.”
Robert Clarke, director of European advocacy for ADF International and lead counsel for the Wunderlich family at the European Court of Human Rights, said, “As we wait for referral to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, we hope that, there too, the rights of the Wunderlich family will be safeguarded.”
The children had told the court they wanted to remain with their parents and to be homeschooled.
“I am not ready to attend a public school simply because German judges cannot imagine for me to be educated in a different way. I will not tolerate being forcefully taken and locked up,” wrote one of the children in a letter to the judge.
A sibling added: “I just want to live and learn in peace with my family without the constant fear of being torn apart like in 2009 and in 2013. I went to a public school for a year and definitely did not enjoy it.”
See a video about the case:
The children eventually were returned to the family after the 2013 raid, but their legal status remained unclear.
Dirk Wunderlich explained that he and his wife decided to educate their children at home “because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”
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 story on the battering-ram raid grabbed the attention of millions of people around the world.
The anti-homeschooling law first imposed in Germany under the Hitler regime. The nation since then has signed a number of international 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.”