Germany Wages War on Homeschoolers

Last week I had the good fortune to speak to Mike Donnelly from HSLDA, the Home School Legal Defense Association on my radio show, The Sociable Homeschooler.  Mike told me that the ruling granting the Romeikes, a German homeschooling family, political asylum in America, is going to be appealed by the federal government so as not to offend a close ally.  He was very excited about the news and so I caught his enthusiasm, not fully aware of the whole story.  Yes, I’d heard that families in Germany had a hard time of it if they wanted to homeschool.  I had received prayer requests for German families whose parents were paying fines and even being sentenced to jail because they refused to send their children to the state schools.  But I have to admit that I did not faithfully follow the stories because they were not directly impacting my life and the choices I make.  At least, that is what I used to think.  Recently I have been reading literature about the legalities of homeschooling around the world, the controversy about parental rights and the debate about basic human rights worldwide.  I am quickly realizing that if we are to continue to enjoy the freedoms we have in America we need to look at our Western allies, and watch what their governments are doing and decide for ourselves if they are violating a right we take for granted.

In the Third World, for example, what constitutes as protection for exploited children may translate for Americans into losing their rights to raise their children as they see fit.  I have learned that I need to be vigilant, read closely and support legal groups like HSLDA.   I can trust their lawyers to guide me when I vote for house representatives and senators, I can check their web sites for comments, news and clarification on topics I may not be educated about and I can count on them to protect my rights as a homeschooler not only in America but around the world.

Now, back to the Romeikes.  In a recent Time Magasine article I read that Mr. and Mrs. Romeike and their four children, ages 4 -12, are Christians from Bissenggen, Germany.  They are music teachers who did not like what their children were being taught in school so, illegally, they began to homeschool.  Homeschoolers are able to follow their consciences in every major Western country except Germany where mandatory school attendance laws date back to 1717 and are viewed as a social good. The president of the German Teacher’s Association says that “this law protects children.”   He continues, “no parental couple can offer a breadth of education that can replace experienced teachers.”  Courts in Germany rule that their compulsory-schooling law is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, an international treaty drafted in 1950; with this kind of thinking it is hardly surprising that the Romeikes came up against a wall of opposition when they tried to talk to their school principal about the merits of homeschooling.

The German government has taken a position of official intolerance of homeschoolers, suppressing the homeschool movement and preventing this particular social group from flourishing.  When authorities discover homeschoolers they increase pressure, beginning with demands that they put their children in state schools; the Romeikes endured police turning up at their doorstep and forcibly escorting their crying and traumatized children to school.  They impose excessive fines; the Romeikes owe the government about $10,000. Wages are garnished and property seized if payment is not made.  They may also initiate criminal prosecution and parents could be sent to jail. In 2007 Germany’s Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling that parents could lose custody of their children if they continued to homeschool them.  The Romeikes were afraid that the authorities were going to take their children away from them, so they decided to flee their homeland and come to America.

According to an HSLDA news article Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman, in Memphis, Tennessee, granted the political asylum application of the Romeikes.  He explained that,

“Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German Government is trying to suppress.” He continued, “the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”

This ruling is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children.  HSLDA’s, Mr. Donnelly, commented that the “judge understood the case perfectly, and he called Germany out.  We hope this decision will cause Germany to stop persecuting homeschoolers.”

German homeschoolers have seconded Mr. Donnelly’s hope that this “decision in America to grant the Romeikes’ asylum will send a loud message to the German people that what our country is doing is wrong.”

Donnelly says that the German government are “trying to coerce idealogical uniformity in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of past history.”   He also pointed out that “Germany is in the company of countries like China, North Korea and others where fundamental human rights are not respected.”

Feel blessed that you are American and that legal experts like Mr. Donnelly are fighting in the courts for your fundamental parental rights.

Go to: www.HSLDA,org for more news and information.

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