By Michael Mallie
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their six children fled Germany in 2008 to seek asylum in the United States so they could home-school their children. Adolf Hitler had banned home schooling in 1938 and the law was never repealed. Rather, it appears the German government has ramped up its opposition to home schooling in the last decade.
The German Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of the home-school ban is to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies”
As evangelical Christians, the Romeike parents became aware that the German public school material undermined their own religious beliefs. In 2006, they withdrew their children from the system. But after two years of police visits, plus about $10,000 in fines, the Romeike family decided to seek asylum in the United States. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) took up their case.
Memphis, Tenn., immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the Romeikes asylum in 2010, stating the German law is “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” Hannelore Romeike was jubilant over the ruling: “We were so relieved. … Our children were jumping up and down and everyone in the room was hugging us and celebrating” (http://christiannews.net/2013/03/06/obama-justice-department-fighting-to-deport-christian-homeschooling-family-seeking-asylum/).
Nothing seems too remarkable about this story so far, unless it is that Germany still outlaws the right of parents to educate their own children. But America? We have songs and anthems about freedom and liberty, right?
What makes this story remarkable is that it is not over. Though the Romeikes currently home-school their children in Tennessee, the Obama Administration wants the family deported. The U.S. Justice Department is fighting to have the Romeikes returned to Germany. “ ‘(Eric Holder’s office) argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans home schooling,’ HSLDA founder Michael Farris explained to reporters. ‘There would only be a problem if Germany banned home schooling for some but permitted it for others’”
If Holder believes Germany has a right to ban home schooling (as long as the ban is broad and equal), where stands the individual rights of American home-schoolers? Farris sees a disconnect between the Supreme Court and the Justice Department.
“The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right,” said Farris in the Washington Times story. “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.”
In his 2010 ruling, Judge Burman stated that the Romeike family had “a well-founded fear of persecution. …” Indeed, they did. The German government took their children away in a police van and held them for a time before Uwe and Hannelore Romeike brought them to the United States. German state constitutions require children to attend public schools, and parents who don’t comply can be punished with fines, imprisonment or even lose custody of their children.
The fate of the Romeike family is currently in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. If the Circuit Court sides with the Justice Department — in essence, declaring the German home-school ban just — what support can American home-schoolers expect from their government?
Michael Mallie of Kalona is Fellow of the World Journalism Institute, an independent journalism school whose mission is to recruit, equip, place and encourage journalists who are Christians in the mainstream newsrooms. Comments: Castle35@kctc.net