German home schoolers granted asylum in USA

Thu, 28 Jan 2010

A Christian family from Germany have been granted political asylum in the US after facing the threat of prison for home schooling their children.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who are evangelical Christians, were forced to flee Germany as they wished to educate their five children at home.

Home schooling is still illegal in Germany under laws introduced during the Nazi era.

The German law means that parents who choose to home school their children can face fines or even imprisonment.

Mr Romeike said: “I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught”.

Mr Romeike and his wife withdrew their three oldest children from school in 2006 after they encountered problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure.

However, the decision to educate their children at home brought the family into conflict with the German authorities.

The family endured harassment from the authorities, and on one occasion police officers came to the family’s home and forced the children to attend school.

The family fled to the US after Germany’s highest court ruled that in severe cases of non-compliance social services could remove home schooled children from their parents.

Describing the case, Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman said that “the rights being violated here are basic human rights that no country has a right to violate”.

He added: “Homeschoolers are a particular social group that the German Government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution…therefore, they are eligible for asylum…and the court will grant asylum.”

The Romeike family were represented by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA staff attorney and director of international relations, said: “It is embarrassing for Germany, since a Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children.”

But Lutz Gorgens, a German Consul General based in Atlanta, defended the German system saying that “parents may choose between public, private and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula like Waldorf or Montessori schools”.

The Romeike family are now free to remain in Tennessee where they have been living since 2008.

In September 2009 it was reported that an American court had ordered a home-schooled child to attend a Government-run school.

The court conceded that the ten-year-old from a Christian home was bright, sociable and academically advanced for her age.

However the court decided she should no longer be home-schooled simply because, according to her mother’s attorney, her “religious beliefs are a bit too sincerely held” and needed to be “mixed among other worldviews”.

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