Earlier this week, a U.S. immigration court granted political asylum to a Christian family who fled their native Germany after being fined and threatened with losing custody of their children for homeschooling them.
On Tuesday, Tennessee Judge Lawrence Burman called Germany's actions with the Romeike family a violation of their human rights and “repellent to everything we believe as Americans” before passing a ruling that allowed them to stay in the U.S.
Though the ruling has not officially been made available, Judge Burman was quoted by the German newspaper Der Spiegel as saying that the family had “a well-founded fear of persecution.”
The Romeike family is being legally defended by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which said in a Jan. 28 statement that homeschoolers are “a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress.”
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike decided to pull their children from public school in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg in 2008 over a concern that their children were being taught an “anti-Christian worldview.” The Romeikes chose to educate their five children at home, which is prohibited by the individual German state's constitutions.
After fighting with local authorities, the Romieke's emigrated to the U.S. and applied for political asylum in 2009. They now live in Morristown, Tennessee. Uwe Romeike was quoted on Tuesday as saying he was “so grateful to the judge for his ruling.”
HSLDA attorney and director for international relations Mike Donnelly called the ruling in favor of the Romeike's “embarrassing for Germany.”
According to Der Spiegel, in late 2006 the German Constitutional Court ruled that parents are not allowed to keep their children from attending school due to their religious views and said that exposure to other religious beliefs was completely acceptable for children.
In 2007, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that parents could be even be denied custody of their children should they fail to cooperate with the mandate as the public has a vested interest in “parallel societies” based on religious beliefs or worldview.
“There is no safety for homeschoolers in Germany,” Donnelly remarked on Thursday. “The two highest courts in Germany have ruled that it is acceptable for the German government to ‘stamp out’ homeschoolers as some kind of ‘parallel society.’ The reasoning is flawed. Valid research shows that homeschoolers excel academically and socially. German courts are simply ignoring the truth that exists all over the world where homeschooling is practiced.”
Der Spiegel touched on the history of education in Germany, explaining that mandatory school attendance was born out of a right to attend school as opposed to a compulsion. Some have also defended the German government in this situation, saying that parents have a wide range of education options in the country.
Lutz Görgens, the German consul for the southeastern United States, told the Associated Press in an email that “parents may choose among public, private and religious schools” even alternative ones such as “Waldorf or Montessori” and that mandatory attendance allows for a high standard in education.
“Parents have the right and authority to make decisions regarding their children’s education without undue government interference,” countered attorney Roger Kiska, who worked with HSLDA on the Romeike case. “The immigration court has clearly recognized that basic human rights are being violated by the German policy of persecuting home-schooling families. Many Americans are simply unaware of just how bad the policy is. We hope this ruling sheds light on a predatory policy that the German government ought to end immediately.”