Kirsten Andersen

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German homeschool family denied asylum in the U.S. appeals to Supreme Court

Kirsten Andersen
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WASHINGTON, D.C., July 23, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – A German homeschooling family who fled to the United States in 2008 after persecution by officials in their home country has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court asking to be allowed to stay.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike and their children were first granted asylum in the U.S. by a Memphis judge in 2010 after a costly battle authorities in their native Germany over their choice to educate the kids at home.  Strictly-enforced German laws enacted during the Nazi era require all children to be taught in state-approved schools, but the Romeikes, who are Christian, say they object to the government-approved curriculum on religious grounds.

But in 2012, under pressure from the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder, the Board of Immigration rescinded original judge’s decision to grant asylum. 

“The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society,” Holder argued in a Justice Department brief regarding the case. “Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.”

Because all homeschooling is illegal in Germany, not just religious homeschooling, the Board ruled that in their opinion, the Romeikes are not being singled out for persecution because of their faith, and therefore do not qualify for refugee status under U.S. law.   A federal appeals court upheld the Board’s decision in May of this year, meaning the Romeikes, whose religious commitment to homeschooling had already cost them thousands of Euros in fines by the time they sought refuge in the U.S., will be deported unless the Supreme Court agrees to hear their case. 

If forced to return to their home country, the Romeikes may face additional fines and jail time, along with the loss of their children to state custody.

Home School Legal Defense Association chairman Michael Farris, who is representing the Romeikes in court, said the Board of Immigration and the federal appeals court were mistaken in ruling that Germany’s ban on homeschooling is not religiously-motivated. 

“The German High Court is on record for saying that religious homeschoolers should be targeted and severely punished, yet our Justice Department sees nothing wrong with that,” Farris said. “The Attorney General and Sixth Circuit are ignoring critical evidence and are trying to send back this family who is trying to stay in our country legally.

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will go the other way and see what the original immigration judge saw: that this family and other religious homeschoolers in Germany are being persecuted for what they believe is the right way to raise their children.”

Even the Obama Justice Department admits that the suppression of religion plays a role in German education law.  In a court filing, the DOJ cited German case law stating “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies’ and in integrating minorities in this area.” 

But according to Farris, whether or not Germany’s ban on homeschooling has its roots in religious bigotry or something else, it is still a violation of the basic human right to educate one’s children in the way one sees fit.

Said Farris, “This is not over yet. We are taking this case to the Supreme Court because we firmly believe that this family deserves the freedom that this country was founded on.”

In Farris’s opinion, “the Sixth Circuit’s opinion contains two clear errors: First, they wholly ignored Germany’s proclamation that a central reason for banning homeschooling is to suppress religious minorities. Second, the Sixth Circuit erred when it failed to address the claim that parental rights are so fundamental that no government can deny parents the right to choose an alternative to the public schools.”

The Romeikes have until October 13 to file their petition with the Supreme Court. 

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