For some people it may come as a surprise to learn that homeschooling is frowned upon in most countries throughout the world. In fact the United States, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand are the only nations where home schooling is not considered weird or even cruel. Perhaps more surprising is that in Germany, where you would think they would be extremely sensitive to this sort of thing given there ugly history of totalitarianism, home schooling is actually illegal. Hardened criminals who violate this law face not only criminal charges and hefty fines, but also risk losing custody of their children.
Such was the case for the Romeikes, a German family of Christian faith who opted to home school after their older children where bullied for their beliefs. Piano teacher and mother of six, Uwe Romeike also claims that she found material that she considered inappropriate in school textbooks. In a 2010 New York Times interview, dad Hannelore Romeike explained, “… the unruly behavior of students that was allowed by many teachers had kept his children from learning. The stories in German readers, in which devils, witches and disobedient children are often portrayed as heroes, set bad examples,” leading he and his wife to the conclusion that home schooling would be the best option for their family. “I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible, [but] part of education should be character-building,” he said.
In making this decision the Romeikes said they anticipated some form of punishment from the German government, most likely small fines; what they got however was much more severe. According to Mr. Romeike, they found themselves “facing fines eventually totaling over $11,000, threats that they would lose custody of their children, and one morning, a visit by the police, who took the children to school in a police van.”
As a home schooling mom of a 10 year old girl, I find this to be an absolutely horrifying scenario. Understandably the Romeikes began looking for alternatives to the German system. With the assistance of Home School Legal Defense Association [HSLDA] a Virginia-based home school advocacy organization, the family came to the United States in 2008 and petitioned for political asylum. In 2010 their petition was granted by an immigration judge in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the family was given permanent refugee status, with the judge saying it was his opinion that the family had a legitimate fear of persecution if they were to return to Germany. As the NYT’s reported back in 2010:
In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.
Describing home-schoolers as a distinct group of people who have a “principled opposition to government policy,” he ruled that the Romeikes would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were “members of a particular social group,” two standards for granting asylum.
Courtesy photo – The Romeike family
So there you have it. Case closed right? NOPE. Evidently Judge Burman’s ruling was not sufficient for Eric Holder and the Department of Justice. In a move that seemingly defies logic, the DoJ has filed an appeal protesting the ruling that was handed down nearly three years ago. Here is their argument in their own words,
Here, the characteristic in question is entirely mutable. A parent may choose to send a child to public school, or decline to do so. The Romeikes themselves offer a clear example of the mutability of the characteristic – their children attended public school (Transcript, A.R. 305-06), then did not attend public school (Transcript, A.R. 306), and then returned to public school for a single morning before their mother removed them at recess, (Transcript, A.R. 356-57). The characteristic is therefore not an “innate” one like sex, color, or kinship ties, nor is it immutable in the way that past military service or land ownership might be.
HUH? Aside from this bizarre logic, the case was settled! So why does the Attorney General of the United States feel the need to harass a home school family whose case has already been determined? As Michael Farris, HSLDA Founder and Chairman explains there is a much bigger issue at hand,
The U.S. law of asylum allows a refugee to stay in the United States permanently if he can show that he is being persecuted for one of several specific reasons. Among these are persecution for religious reasons and persecution of a “particular social group.”
In most asylum cases, there is some guesswork necessary to figure out the government’s true motive—but not in this case. The Supreme Court of Germany declared that the purpose of the German ban on homeschooling was to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
This sounds elegant, perhaps, but at its core it is a frightening concept. This means that the German government wants to prohibit people who think differently from the government (on religious or philosophical grounds) from growing and developing into a force in society.
It is thought control. It is belief control. It is totalitarianism dressed up in politically correct lingo. […]
No one contends that homeschooling is a characteristic that cannot be changed. We simply contend that in a free nation it is a characteristic that should not be required to be changed.
Germany has signed international treaties which proclaim that parental rights are a prior right over any views of the government when it comes to education. In fact, the movement for the adoption of these treaties came in reaction to the world’s horror at broad-ranging attack on human rights that Germany perpetrated in the events surrounding World War II. Nazi Germany believed that the children belonged first to the state. The world community answered that and said, no, parental rights are prior to those of the government.
So you see folks, this is not merely about home schooling or religious freedom, both extremely important issues; but rather an exercise in asserting the power of the government over the will of the people. Should the DoJ win this case it sets a very dangerous precedent for the role of parental rights for citizens of the United States. This challenge to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals clearly demonstrates that this administration does not believe that “we the people” have a fundamental right to educate our own children.
We live in dangerous times my friends… stay vigilant and keep your children close.
Read more of Michael Farris’s case for the Romeike family at http://www.hslda.org/docs/news/2013/201302110.asp