Obama administration: forcing German Christians to send children to public school ‘not persecution’

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike began home schooling in Germany because they didn’t want their children exposed to things like witchcraft and graphic sex education that are taught in German .schools. (PHOTO: CBN News)

Originally published in Christian News

The Obama administration has replied to a request for rehearing of a case involving a Christian homeschooling family seeking asylum in the United States, asserting that the couple has not been able to prove that they have been persecuted by being forced to send their children to public school.

As previously reported, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the United States Department of Justice to respond to a rehearing request filed by attorneys for Uwe and Hannelore Romeike last month. The court had previously ruled against the Romeike family, opining that the requirement that their children be sent to public school in their homeland of Germany under penalty of law — and at the risk of losing their children — is not tantamount to persecution.

“[T]he Romeikes [have] not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them, whether on grounds of religion or membership in a recognized social group,” the court stated. “There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”

The Romeike family fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling their six children. Homeschooling was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened. In 2007, the German Supreme Court ruled that the country’s mandate that children be sent to public school is necessary to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”

German crackdown on home schooling
German officials have been cracking down on families that keep their sons and daughters at home, and have threatened them with fines, imprisonment and even the removal of the children from the household. The Romeike children were taken from their parents for a time before fleeing to the United States for refuge.

In 2010, Memphis immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the family asylum, stating that he believed the Romeike’s would face persecution for their faith if they returned to Germany. However, the Department of Justice later appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit, which overturned Burman’s decision.

In court documents filed last week by the Department of Justice, the Obama administration asserted that the requirement that German children be sent to public school is valid as the government seeks to create an “open, pluralistic society.” It asserted that German officials are not persecuting the family by mandating attendance since the law applies to all citizens, regardless of their religion.

“Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen of Germany,” wrote Senior Litigation Counsel Robert N. Markle. “Along with other evidence that Germany punishes all parents who fail to comply with the law, regardless of all the reasons the parents may provide for failing to comply, substantial evidence exists to support the Board’s determination that Germany has no persecutory motive against religious minorities when enforcing the compulsory-attendance statute.”

He then requested that the court deny the Romeike’s request for rehearing of their case, essentially contending that the family should be deported.

However, Michael Farris, president of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which has been representing the Romeike family in the courts, wrote in a news release this week that it is antithetical to the principles of American liberty to assert that social tolerance trumps the right to homeschool.

“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,” Farris said. “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,” he added. “Why Attorney General Holder thinks that it is appropriate for any country to do this to a family simply for homeschooling is beyond me.”

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will decide in the days ahead whether to rehear the case before a full panel, or force the matter to be sent to the United States Supreme Court.


  1. Christopher Blackwell

    I am curious about the mistake in the Headline as it was the requirement to send the children to public school that seems to be the bone of contention. I question that hiding children from knowledge that is required to survive in society is persecution in the first place, especially when this knowledge is required to move on to higher education for for use in many professions. Now I see no problem if parents want to add other subjects at home to a child’s education. But assuring that all children having a basic level of education is necessary to a well-functioning society. Unfortunately not all parents have the ability, or the knowledge to fully teach their children in all the necessary subjects for a complex society.

    • Hi Christopher. You got me there! Just the kind of error that a weary editor makes after a loooong day. I have corrected my error by replacing ‘home school’ with ‘public school’. I know of home-schooled kids who went on to excel in public universities. I am also aware of lousy public schools. But I don’t think the issue in this story is about teaching competence. It appears to be in the ideological realm. The Obama administration’s argument on the value of teaching ‘tolerance’ to kids seems ironical in the context of the German system that is so intolerant of homeschooling that it threatens to jail parents and seize their kids! Interesting to note who first outlawed home schooling in Germany!

      • Christopher Blackwell

        I do a bit of editing when I interview people and then send my corrected copy back tot he people that I have interviewed just in case that I added an error some how.

        As to home schooling, with the except to our frontier days in America I think the present day home schooling laws are fairly recent, and yes the local government used to take a dim view on a child not going to public school. In fact most school systems I grew up with actually had an Truant Officer of the school go cheek up with why a child was not i school. Yes the parents could be fined if their children continued to miss school.

        As this law applied to everyone I hardly understand why it is being called religious persecution in Germany. Normally if you don’t like a law, you work to get rid of it or change it to fit modern needs, not just go out and break it. In most of the countries knowingly breaking the law is serious business. It would have made more sense to work to change the law.