The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has launched a petition on the White House website that urges the Obama administration to grant permanent legal status to the Romeike family of Germany. The family sought asylum in the United States because they homeschool their children, which is almost universally illegal in their home country.
In an unprecedented decision in January of 2010, a U.S. immigration judge, Lawrence O. Burman, granted asylum in the United States to Uwe and Hannalore Romeike. It was the first case ever to recognize homeschooling as a reason for granting asylum. In his decision, Judge Burman observed that the rights being denied the Romeikes were “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate.”
In addition, the judge expressed concern that while Germany is a democratic country and is an ally of the United States, this particular policy of persecuting homeschoolers is “repellent to everything we believe in as Americans.”
The decision’s impact in Germany was significant. Mike Donnelly, staff attorney and director of international relations for HSLDA, 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.”
However, just two months following Judge Burman’s decision, the U.S. Government Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed an appeal which claimed that homeschoolers were too “amorphous” to be a “particular social group.” The appeal argued that “United States law has recognized the broad power of the state to compel school attendance and regulate curriculum and teacher certification,” as well as the “authority to prohibit or regulate homeschooling.”
Though Judge Burman had determined that the German state’s policy of imposing heavy fines, the loss of custody of children, and possible criminal prosecution over homeschooling amounted to persecution, ICE criticized him for disregarding a case before the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that “the public education laws of Germany do not violate basic human rights.”
Michael Smith, president of HSLDA, countered that American courts should only rely on American law.
“American judges should use American law alone in making decisions about cases in American courts,” Smith said. “The use of international law in American courts is a threat to American justice and should be opposed.”
In its appeal, ICE argued that the U.S. government has the authority to simply prohibit homeschooling, and that this fact should disqualify the granting of asylum to the Romeikes. ICE further noted that Judge Burman “did not address how under various state laws of the United States a person can be similarly prosecuted for not sending one’s children to school.”
The Romeikes’ case, Romeike v. Holder, is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and will be heard on April 23rd.
According to Michael Farris, HSLDA Founder and Chairman, the attorneys arguing for Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration have put forth two central arguments. The first is that there is no fundamental right to homeschool. Second, the Romeikes’ case failed to show that the family suffered discrimination based on religion; they claimed the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool their children.
“The central problem here is that the U.S. government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right,” wrote Farris. “One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim.”
In addition, the Attorney General has argued that homeschooling is a “mutable” choice, meaning that the family can change its choice.
Farris says, “When the United States government says that homeschooling is a mutable choice, it is saying that a government can legitimately coerce you to change this choice.”
Viewing the Romeikes’ case as one that is of concern to all Americans, Farris says the government’s argument means, “You have no protected right to choose what type of education your children will receive.”
Farris told Breitbart News, “Homeschooling is not only a great academic program, it is the finest example of American liberty. The essence of liberty is to believe what you want and to teach that to your children.”
Farris added, “Germany bans homeschooling for the express reason that they want all children to embrace the government’s view of the world. The fact that the Obama administration wants to deport this family suggests dangerous things about its view of liberty for both Americans and those who see America as the last hope for liberty.”
The Romeikes will be guests on Fox News Channel’s The Mike Huckabee Show on April 6th.