Why a Christian school in Germany is headed to the European Court of Human Rights

Originally published in CBN News

A Christian school in Germany is challenging the country’s “restrictive educational system” after government officials barred them from opening more schools.

The Association for Decentralized Learning, which offers both virtual and home education programs, has filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights after government officials refused to grant them accreditation.

In 2014, the school was denied approval to launch primary and secondary educational opportunities even though they had fulfilled all state-mandated criteria and curricula.

Attorneys filed a lawsuit over the inaction in 2017 and presented their case in three separate hearings, but the German Constitutional Court dismissed a final domestic appeal last year.

Now the Association for Decentralized Learning is filing a case at Europe’s top human rights court.

The Alliance Defending Freedom International (ADF), a faith-based advocacy group, is representing the group and claims that Germany’s restrictive education system infringes on educational choices and parental rights. 

“The right to education includes the right to embrace innovative approaches like hybrid schooling. By restricting this educational model, the state is violating the right of German citizens to pursue education that conforms with their convictions,” ADF International Director of European Advocacy Felix Böllmann said in a press release.

He added, “When it comes to the requirement of physical presence, Germany has one of the most restrictive educational systems in the world. The fact that an innovative school based on Christian values has been denied recognition is a serious development worthy of scrutiny by the Court.”

For nine years, the Association for Decentralized Learning has been successfully running an independent hybrid school, employing state-approved teachers, and following a set curriculum. 

Students who attend this program maintain higher standardized test scores compared to their peers who attend government-controlled institutions.

“Children have a right to a first-class education. At our school, we can provide families with an education that meets their individual learning needs and allows students to flourish,” stated Jonathan Erz, the head of the Association for Decentralized Learning. 

However, court officials contend that despite higher academic performances, the school’s hybrid model doesn’t allow for peer socialization. 

Böllmann says parents should have a right to choose where their children attend school.
 
“It is established clearly in international law that parents are the first authority for the education of their children. What the German state is doing to undermine education is an overt violation of not only freedom of education, but also of parental rights,” he explained. “Moreover, distance learning during Covid-19 lockdowns demonstrates that a complete ban on independent and digitally supported learning is out of date.” 

Tobias Riemenschneider, a pastor at Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church in Frankfurt, Germany, told The Daily Wire that Christian parents would like to have more say in what their children are exposed to.

“Even for many Christians who see school attendance as generally compatible with their faith, the situation has changed fundamentally in the last three years,” Riemenschneider said. “In recent times, the state has increasingly included ideologies in the curriculum that contradict the teachings of the Bible, such as homosexuality or transgenderism. Many parents legitimately worry that their child will be indoctrinated at school contrary to their beliefs and may even be encouraged to embrace homosexuality or undergo sex reassignment surgery.”

Erz hopes the courts will see the value of their educational model.

“It is our great hope that the Court will right this injustice and rule in favor of educational freedom, recognising that our school provide innovative and high-standard education through modern technology, individual student responsibility, and weekly attendance hours,” Erz continued.

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