If they are deported back to Germany, the Romeike family could face fines, jail time or worse: They could lose their children. They had already paid nearly $10,000 in fines before they left Germany and sought asylum in the United States. They had even suffered the pain of watching the German police apprehend their children and place them in the public schools. When Uwe and Hannelor realized that it was just a matter of time until their children were taken from them by the state, they fled to this country, and were granted asylum by a Tennessee judge in 2010.
Wait a minute. Back up the tape. These parents were not ritually abusing their children? They weren’t locking them in a closet and feeding them once a week? They weren’t denying them medical attention for life-threatening diseases? No. None of that. They were exercising their God-given right to educate their children at home. Ahh, but therein lies the problem. Is it a God-given right? Not according to the U.S. Justice Department, whose lawyers filed a brief arguing that since Germany has banned homeschooling for all citizens, not just the evangelical ones, the Romeikes have no right to political asylum in the United States.
Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, has agreed to argue the case for the Romeikes before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Farris wrote in his blog in February, “In most asylum cases, there is some guesswork necessary to figure out the government’s true motive — but not in this case. The Supreme Court of Germany declared that the purpose of the German ban on homeschooling was to ‘counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.’ This sounds elegant, perhaps, but at its core it is a frightening concept. This means that the German government wants to prohibit people who think differently from the government (on religious or philosophical grounds) from growing and developing into a force in society.”
The Romeikes decided to homeschool their six children because they believed it would be what was best for them, based on their own Christian faith. In an interview with Human Events, they said, “The German schools teach against our Christian values. Our children know that we homeschool following our convictions that we are in God’s hands.” They believe what the Bible teaches, that “children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward,” and that God has given these children to them to teach and to raise for his glory.
All of this begs the question: If the United States can support another country’s decision to deny fundamental religious freedom to its citizens, how far away are we from seeing that same religious freedom denied here at home? If our own Justice Department sees homeschooling as a privilege granted to families in this country, not as a fundamental, God-given right, then how long will it be until that “privilege” is revoked? If our Justice Department is willing to argue that another government can forcibly remove children from their homes and send them to government-sanctioned schools, when will they decide the same applies to the two million children in this nation who are being educated at home? It is not just homeschooling that is the issue, but all fundamental religious freedoms.
The White House will hear any petition with at least 100,000 signatures. As of this writing, the Romeike petition has more than 70,000 signers. You can stand with the Romeikes by signing the petition. (www.hslda.org/romeike)
Mostly, I think they would cherish your prayers.
Mark and Cindy Fox have homeschooled for 23 years, with five children successfully graduated and two more to go. J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org