In Cincinnati, three judges in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals asked hard questions and heard the Romeike family bid for United States asylum from their home country of Germany.The Obama administration’s Department of Justice opposes the asylum claim that was originally granted in 2010 by Judge Berman in Memphis’ Immigration Court.
Here’s a review of yesterday’s court hearing from a couple of sources.
Federal appeals court weighs asylum from German home-schoolers living in Tennessee By Brett Barrouquere of the Associated Press April 23, 2013
The judges quizzed attorneys on the motivation behind the compulsory school law and whether home-schoolers should qualify as an identifiable social group that could be persecuted.
Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton asked Michael Farris, an attorney for the Romeikes, if the law targets home-schoolers specifically or if it is applied broadly to everyone. Sutton also noted that the Romeikes can spend time after school and on weekends teaching their children whatever they choose.
“What they’re doing is forbidden in that country,” Sutton said. “But Germany is not forbidding home-schooling … It’s not like saying you can’t teach them at home in the evenings.”
In the AP article, Judge Rogers was apparently dubious of the Romeike’s lawyer’s religious freedom claim. HSLDA‘s Chair – Michael Farris – is the family’s legal representative.
Farris said international human rights standards for educating children allow parents the religious freedom to educate their child any way they see fit. By refusing to send their children to schools and choosing home schooling, the Romeikes are justifiably defying the state to exercise their freedom of religion, said Farris, who works with the Home School Legal Defense Association in Purcellville, Virginia
“It just seems like you are opening the door to anyone who lives in a country without all the constitutional protections we enjoy here,” Rogers said.
Justice Department attorney Walter Bucchini said the German law “isn’t a great law,” but it does allow families the freedom to teach outside of the classroom. No single religion or class of people is being singled out by the statute, Bucchini said.
“I’m saying it is one of equal application,” Bucchini said.
Here are excerpts from David Roach’s report in the Baptist Press News: Homeschoolers’ request for asylum questioned by judges
Apr 23, 2013. Michael Farris was interviewed by BP:
“It makes no sense to me why the Obama administration wants to send a German homeschool family home while they are so lenient to so many others,” Farris said in an interview. “There is no rational explanation in my judgment. Forget the legal arguments. Legal arguments are debatable, but the political assessment just makes no sense at all.”
Farris told the justices that the German government’s anti-homeschool bias rises to the level of persecution in part because the “degree of punishment is so severe” — removal of the children from their home unless they are placed in a public or private school.
The approximately 500 homeschooling families in Germany are also persecuted, Farris argued, because they are denied what the United Nations has deemed a fundamental human right — the right of parents to direct their children’s education.
Judge Gilman remarked on the German government’s motivations for strict compulsory attendance.
Regarding the Romeikes’ faith, Sutton said it is not clear that anti-Christian bias is among the reasons for Germany’s policy against homeschooling. Judge Ronald Gilman said teaching “tolerance” is one reason for the German government’s insistence on school attendance.
Farris countered, “If that’s tolerance, it’s a tolerance unknown to a free society.”
In 2010, Deutsche-Welle’s Andrew Bowen pointed out Germany’s ”embryonic democracy” via Hans Bruegelmann, an education professor at the University of Siegen:
“The school is an embryonic democracy and will help to integrate children and young people coming from different backgrounds into the democratic culture,” he said.
Integration into democracy and learning to get along with those who hold opposing opinions are important skills that children cannot learn when homeschooled, Bruegelmann said, and that is especially true with highly religious parents.
“They should not have the right to indoctrinate their children,” he said. “It’s important for children, besides the experience they make at home, which is respected, to have access to other sources of understanding the world.”
The professor’s unfortunate assumption was homeschoolers are not out and about in our communities. We’ve heard the same from some US-based education professors and others. But in Germany, there is also a federal law explaining the State’s oversight: “The care and upbringing of children is the natural right of parents and a duty primarily incumbent upon them. The State shall watch over them in the performance of this duty.”
A universal State Watch over families’ care and upbringing would seem subjective and abhorrent to most here in the United States.
The family had supporters at the court building, including German homeschooler Jurgen Dudek, who was mentioned in yesterday’s post. From the BP article:
The family’s hearing in Cincinnati drew 50 to 60 supporters, some of whom snapped photos of the Romeikes outside the federal courthouse. Jurgen Dudek, a 51-year-old home schooling activist in Arkfeld, Germany, sat inside the courtroom during the arguments. After the hearing, Dudek said the government’s arguments are “not waterproof at all” and said there’s no proof that families such as the Romeikes aren’t being singled out.
“There’s no freedom in the educational system,” Dudek said. “They seem to be afraid of something.”
It appears the decision will not be made for several weeks. If the Romeike family’s request is rejected again, Farris has vowed to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.