By Patrick B. Craine

OTTAWA, Ontario, March 23, 2010 ( – A German homeschooling family is seeking asylum in Canada after fleeing their native country due to persecution, reports the Globe and Mail.

The family will make their plea on Tuesday in a closed hearing before the Alberta Immigration and Refugee board. They say that they would be persecuted in Germany for homeschooling, based on the German law that forbids homeschooling with little exception. Parents who violate the law have faced hefty fines, as well as imprisonment and state seizure of their children.

While many choose to homeschool for religious reasons, these parents, who do not wish to be identified, say rather that they wish to homeschool as a matter of conscience and for the medical well-being of their two teenage sons. The boys both suffer from various illnesses after having been born four months premature.

The government had placed them in a school for the physically and mentally disabled, but the parents felt that they would not receive the best education there, so they chose to homeschool.

After battles with the government, they were permitted to homeschool in 2006, supported by a state teacher. The teacher later informed the parents that she would be leaving at the end of the school year, and advised them to leave the country. Then, two days later, the police presented the family with a government letter telling them to enroll their children in school for the next year or they would be taken away.

After hiding in Germany for three months, they went to Denmark, where they got in touch with the Home School Legal Defense Association, which helped bring them to Canada in April 2007.

The German law forbidding homeschooling was established by the Nazis in 1938. The law has been upheld in recent years by the courts, and in 2006, the country’s highest criminal court ruled that the government could seize children whose parents attempt to homeschool on the basis of conscience. The European Court of Human Rights also upheld the law in 2006.

The German government’s persecution of homeschoolers made headlines in January after a U.S. judge granted asylum to the Romeikes, a family who had fled to the U.S. in August 2008. “The rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate,” wrote Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman. “Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecutionâEUR¦therefore, they are eligible for asylumâEUR¦and the court will grant asylum.”

Canadian Member of Parliament Maurice Vellacott (Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, CPC) has decried the German law, and called on the Alberta board to protect the rights of this family.

“Canada has a strong legacy of parental rights and home schooling has been an accepted expression of these rights in Canada,” he said. “I commend these valiant parents for the commitment and devotion they have to the best interests of their children. I hope the Immigration and Refugee Board in Alberta gives a favourable hearing to this case.”

The mother told the Globe and Mail that her boys are thriving in Alberta. “For us, it’s a gift, a real gift to be able to homeschool our children,” she said.

See related coverage:

U.S. Judge Grants Political Asylum to German Homeschoolers