Tuesday, February 9, AD 2010
In a story those in homeschooling stories may already have heard about, Federal Judge Lawrence Burman issued a ruling in late January granting political asylum to a family of Evangelical Christians from Germany, on the basis that they faced religious persecution in Germany over their belief that they needed to homeschool their children in order to provide them with proper religious formation. With a number of writers, both American and European, pursuing a narrative in which Europe is far more civilized and tolerant than the US, this event provides an interesting example of how European laws are often, in practice, far more restrictive than people in the US would be comfortable with.
The family in question had suffered repeated fines for homeschooling their children, and had been threatened with jail time or loss of custody.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, who are evangelical Christians, say they were forced to go the the US because they wanted to educate their five children at home, something that is illegal in Germany….
In October 2006, police came to the Romeike home and took the children to school. In November 2007 Germany’s highest appellate court ruled that in severe cases of non-compliance, social services could even remove children from home.
Uwe Romeike told the Associated Press that the 2007 ruling convinced him and his wife that “we had to leave the country.” The curriculum in public schools over the past few decades has been “more and more against Christian values,” he said.
Lutz Görgens, a German Consul General in Atlanta, Georgia, said in an e-mail statement that German parents had a range of educational options for their children. Mandatory school attendance in Germany ensures a high standard of learning for all children, he said.
“Parents may chose between public, private and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula like Waldorf or Montessori schools,” said Görgens.
But Romeike was not comfortable sending his children to public school anymore. He said three eldest children had had problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure. “I think it’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,” he said.
The couple took the kids out of school in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg in 2006 and were fined around €70,000 ($100,000).
In 2008 Romeike, a music teacher, sold his collection of pianos and rented out his home in the village of Bissingen. The family now live in Morristown, Tennessee, in the so-called Bible Belt. Like many of their neighbors they teach their children at home.
Obviously, those who desire to see greater regulation of society and a larger safety net in the US, built on the model of Western European countries such as Germany, probably have no interest in having this kind of repressive policy brought to the US as well. Though it is, perhaps, worth considering whether in some sense the two go together. Solidarity without subsidiarity looks a great deal like authoritarianism.