Deportation of German homeschool family affects US homeschool freedom

The Romeikes fled Germany in order to homeschool their children but now face deportation from the US. What does that mean for Americans? Photo: Photo: Hannelore Romeike with her daugher, Damaris / AP

DALLAS, February 12, 2013 — In 1938, the practice of homeschooling was outlawed in Germany by Adolf Hitler and the infamous Third Reich. It was a rough period in German history, as thousands of young people were being pried from their parents’ direction and authority and drafted into the Hitler Youth program, where they were supposed to be trained as Aryan supermen (and women). In a few short years, vast numbers of these youth would be bleeding out on the battlefields of Europe, on the wrong side of the war for the soul of the world.  

Sadly for freedom and for many families, Germany has never lifted this archaic and totalitarian ban on homeschooling. On the contrary, the German government seems to have stepped up its opposition to homeschooling over the past decade, forcing several families to flee, and others to enroll their children in state-approved schools against their will. The German Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of the homeschooling ban is to, “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.” It sounds like they aren’t really big on religious or philosophical diversity over there.

Some notable victims of this small-minded and grasping totalitarianism are Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their five children. Uwe and his wife are music teachers and evangelical Christians who for years have been unsuccessfully seeking the right to homeschool their children. The Romeikes withdrew their children from German public schools in 2006, after becoming concerned that the educational material employed by the school was undermining the tenets of their Christian faith, and that the school was not providing their children with an ideal learning environment. “I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” Mr. Romeike said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

After accruing the equivalent of around $10,000 in fines, and facing police visits to their home and the forcible removal of their children from the home, the Romeikes fled Germany in 2008 to seek asylum in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Their case was taken up by the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which helped the Romeikes in 2010 to become the first family ever granted asylum in the US for the protection of their homeschooling rights.

The HSLDA explains, “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.’ ”

On January 26, 2010, Memphis federal immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the Romeikes political asylum, ruling they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned to their homeland. Judge Burman also denounced the German policy heatedly. In a statement, he called it, “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.”  

HSLDA’s Mike Donnelley called the ruling, “an extraordinary recognition of the fundamental importance of the right of parents to raise their children according to the dictates of individual conscience.”

We were so relieved!” Hanne said. “We had been trying hard not to get our hopes up too high. [The HSLDA attorneys] had assured us that even if we lost at this level, we would appeal and that an appeal could take years. So we knew that we wouldn’t have to go right back to Germany. But to win at this point was such an answer to prayer. Our children were jumping up and down and everyone in the room was hugging us and celebrating. Tears were flowing in gratitude for God’s protection for our family.”

The Romeikes were able to continue quietly homeschooling their children in a small Tennessee town. For a time.

Sadly, their period of respite was not to last. The Romeikes’ case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, with the US government seeking to revoke their asylum and force them to return to Germany. And the details of Attorney-General Holder’s arguments in the brief for Romeike v. Holder are sinister, to say the least.

According to Holder, parents have no fundamental right to home-educate their children.

HSLDA founder Mike Farris warns,

“[Holder’s office] argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.

“Let’s assess the position of the United States government on the face of its argument: a nation violates no one’s rights if it bans homeschooling entirely. There are two major portions of constitutional rights of citizens – fundamental liberties and equal protection. The U.S. Attorney General has said this about homeschooling. There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. So long as a government bans homeschooling broadly and equally, there is no violation of your rights.”

Farris goes on to reveal another argument presented by the Attorney-General: 

The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.”

The US Government, says Farris, “does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right.” Just because all adherents of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard does not mean that individuals who feel compelled to abide by this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups.

Farris contends, “One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. Specifically, one doesn’t have to follow the dictates of a church to claim religious freedom—one should be able to follow the dictates of God Himself.

“The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It is an extreme form of identity politics that directly threatens any understanding of individual liberty.”

While Romeike v. Holder is clearly crucially and immediately important to one huddled family yearning to breathe free, the implications of the arguments currently being presented by the US government against them are ultimately important to all American people. Will our courts uphold the rights of parents to raise their children in the ways that seem best to them, or will a government standard be imposed upon the 2 million homeschooling families of the US?

A look at historical precedents should put us solidly on the side of liberty.

Friedrich Hayek wrote in “The Road To Serfdom”:

There is scarcely a leaf out of Hitler’s book which somebody or other in England or America has not recommended us to take and use for our own purposes. This applies particularly to many people who are undoubtedly Hitler’s mortal enemies because of one special feature in his system. We should never forget that the anti-Semitism of Hitler has driven from his country, or turned into his enemies, many people who in every respect are confirmed totalitarians of the German type.”

For more information about the Romeikes, check out the following sources:

Land of Liberty: The Romeikes’ Journey (HSLDA, January 2010)
US grants home schooling German family political asylum (The Guardian, January 2010)
Judge Grants Asylum to German Home Schoolers (NYTimes, February 2010)
Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Homeschoolers (TIME Magazine, March 2010)
German families look to US for asylum (Global Post, April 2010)
The Romeike Family: Still Waiting on Asylum Appeal (HSLDA, October 2011)
German Homeschool Case May Impact U.S. Homeschool Freedom (HSLDA, February 2013)


An author, history buff, self-taught artist, and enthusiastic autodidact, Bryana brings her always politically incorrect and usually passionate views about politics and the theory of government to her readers. In addition to writing for the TWTC, she also maintains the official High Tide Journal at www.thehightide.com and writes about literature and the world’s great Lover at www.bryanajohnson.com  You can also find her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook.


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Bryana Johnson

Passionate about liberty, and the theory of government, Bryana serves as the vice president of a local political club and reports on political happenings around the globe.
 
In addition to her political activities, Bryana has won prizes in multiple poetry contests and her first poetry collection, Having Decided To Stay, was released in 2012. She writes regularly about the good life, literature and the world’s great Lover over at www.bryanajohnson.com. You can follow her on twitter at @_Bryana_Johnson and on facebook. 

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