This story has received a fair amount of attention in select news outlets in recent weeks, so you may have heard about it already: Uwe and Hannelore Romeike have six children, five of them school age, and the came to the United States from Germany in 2008. Why? Because homeschooling is illegal in Germany, and the German authorities had threatened to take the Romeike’s children away from them because they were homeschooling. In 2010 a U.S. immigration judge granted the Romeikes political asylum because, in the opinion of the judge, the family had a legitimate fear of persecution in Germany due to homeschooling. There are documented cases of other Christian families in Germany that have been fined, imprisoned and even stripped of custody of their children for homeschooling. Why? Because, according to the Germany authorities, homeschooling families are creating “parallel societies.”
The laws in Germany are more than 80 years old. In fact, according to Aaron T. Martin’s article entitled “Homeschooling in Germany and the United States, published in the Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law in 2010, “the draconian policies that are on the books in Germany today were originally implemented by Hitler in 1938.” Why did the Nazi government abolish homeschooling? Because “Nazi leaders proceeded systematically to attack books,
music, films, and radio programs that forwarded any view of the world
inconsistent with the Third Reich’s agenda.” It was this climate in Germany that drove many of the nation’s leading intellectuals out of the country–including Albert Einstein to the United States.
One could question why Germany still has such laws on its books, and I do. In fact, interestingly enough, so do the state legislatures of Georgia and Tennessee, which both took the unusual approach in 2009 of passing resolutions calling on the German government to legalize homeschooling. Among the reasons stated in the Georgian resolution is the statement that “parents hold the fundamental responsibility and right to ensure the best quality education for their children, and parental choice and involvement are crucial to
excellence in education” and “the importance of religious liberties and the right of parents to determine their child’s upbringing and the method in which their education should be provided.” Apparently the Bundestag is unimpressed by the opinions of two states from the American south, as no action to change the law has been taken, to my knowledge. And while I agree that Germany should change their laws in this regard, I am more concerned with what the U.S. government is doing at the moment.
After the immigration judge granted asylum to the Romeikes in 2010 the government immediately began backtracking, concerned that the European Union would be offended and that key European allies would consider the decision an affront to their national sovereignty. The Department of Homeland Security disputed the decision, and last May the Board of Immigration Appeals sided with the government. Now the Romeikes await a decision from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on an appeal filed on their behalf by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Attorney General Eric Holder has argued that Germany’s ban on homeschooling does not violate the “fundamental rights” of the Romeikes. He further argues that homeschoolers who are persecuted for homeschooling their children do not constitute a “particular social group” requiring protection from the United States. What kinds of people do make up groups warranting asylum? Well, the United States has granted asylum to torture victims and victims of religious persecution, as well as to some political dissidents. According to an article by Mary Jackson in WORLD Magazine, the U.S. has also expanded asylum status over the last decade to include “several hundred harassed homosexuals.”
HSLDA Founder and Chairman Michael Farris wrote on the HSLDA web site on February 11 that “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.” For those reasons, and the fact that the U.S. Attorney General’s office is arguing that such a ban does not constitute the persecution of a “particular people group,” Farris believes that the “argument revealed some very dangerous views of our own government toward our freedom.” I have to agree. If the United States government is willing to deport a family that entered the U.S. legally, followed the rules to obtain asylum, and–to my knowledge–have been law abiding residents of the United States for nearly five years because the government does not think that the right to homeschool one’s children is a “fundamental right” then we have a serious problem, and we better be on the lookout. What’s next?