PURCELLVILLE, VA, July 2, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – On June 26, the Department of Justice submitted a brief to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stating Germany's laws that suppress religious homeschooling aim at promoting “tolerance” and are not grounds for claiming persecution.
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany under a law dating back to the Hitler era, and in recent years the country has become increasingly draconian in enforcing the law – removing children from their families, levying heavy fines, even sentencing homeschooling parents to jail. The German Supreme Court has stated that the purpose of the homeschool ban is to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
The Justice Department's brief was filed in response to the Home School Legal Defense Association's (HSLDA) petition for rehearing en banc for the Romeike family, who fled Germany with their five children in 2008 after being fined and threatened with the loss of custody of their children. On one occasion the police even forcibly escorted the Romeike children to school.
The family was denied asylum earlier this year at the Obama administration's behest, after originally being granted it by Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman in 2010.
HSLDA's request for rehearing, filed on May 28, had said that the three-judge panel that heard the case in Cincinnati ignored critical evidence and failed to follow the established legal rules for asylum cases.
In its reply, the Justice Department asked the court to deny the petition for rehearing, claiming that the Romeikes were being prosecuted under generally applicable law and that there is no proof that Germany specifically targets religious homeschoolers. The HSLDA says this contradicts clear statements from the German High Court to the contrary.
The Justice Department further asserted that Germany's open opposition to the “development of religiously or philosophically motivated 'parallel societies'” is designed to create an “open, pluralistic society.”
“Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany,” the brief states. “It is scarcely feasible, with those stated goals in mind, to tease from the opinion, a persecutory motive on the part of those who enforce the law.”
The HSLDA contends that Germany's actions amount to persecution – a platform on which the Romeike family can claim asylum – and filed a reply to the Justice Department brief on June 28.
“Silencing the 'intolerant' to promote tolerance is not only illogical; it is antithetical to any theory of freedom of conscience,” HSLDA said in the reply.
“Attorney General Holder is trying to seek dismissal of this case because he believes that targeting specific groups in the name of tolerance is within the normal legitimate functions of government,” said Michael Farris, HSLDA founder and chairman. “This cannot be the ultimate position of the United States without denying the essence of our commitment to liberty. We're trying to provide a home for this family who would otherwise go back to facing fines, jail time, and forcible removal of their children because of their religious convictions about how their children should be educated. Why Attorney General Holder thinks that it is appropriate for any country to do this to a family simply for homeschooling is beyond me.”
HSLDA Senior Counsel Jim Mason, who has worked closely with Farris on the case, said that he is hopeful that the full Sixth Circuit will take the case. “Since the Sixth Circuit asked the Justice Department to respond to our original petition, we know there is at least one judge who is interested in the case,” he said. “Time will tell as to whether enough judges will want to hear it.”
The Sixth Circuit could make a decision at any time to decide if it will hear the case en banc.
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