Homeschooling Not a Fundamental Right, Justice Dept. Argues
ICC Note: In an unusual case an evangelical German family that fled to the United States after facing arrest for homeschooling children may soon be required to return to their homeland. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany and the parents, who chose to home school their children because of their Christian faith, have already paid more than $10,000 in fines to the German government.
By Napp Nazworth
2/14/2013 Germany (CP) - In a political asylum case involving a German family that fled to the United States to be able to homeschool their children, the U.S. Justice Department is arguing that the freedom to choose to educate one's own children is not a fundamental right. If the Romeike family, who are evangelical Christians, lose their case and are deported back to Germany, they could face fines, jail time, and their children could even be taken away from them.
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany. The Romeike's did not agree with some of what was taught to their children in the public schools, so they began homeschooling in violation of the law. After paying about $10,000 in fines and watching the police apprehend their children and take them to the public school, they sought political asylum in the United States and immigrated to Tennessee. The Home School Legal Defense Association helped them with the move and now represents them in court.
The Romeike's were granted political asylum by a federal district court judge in Tennessee. Political asylum is granted to refugees who can demonstrate that they are being persecuted for religious reason or because they belong to a "particular social group."
The Justice Department is essentially saying that Germany has violated no one's rights because it banned homeschooling for all, Farris wrote, which means the Justice Department believes there is no fundamental right to homeschool.
"There are two major portions of constitutional rights of citizens – fundamental liberties and equal protection. The U.S. Attorney General has said this about homeschooling. There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. So long as a government bans homeschooling broadly and equally, there is no violation of your rights. This is a view which gives some acknowledgement to the principle of equal protection but which entirely jettisons the concept of fundamental liberties."
The Justice Dept. is also taking the position that the Romeike's do not meet the definition of a "particular social group" because their faith does not require them to homeschool. The problem with this argument, Farris believes, is that it does not recognize religious liberty as an individual right.
German homeschoolers are a persecuted social group in Germany, Farris contends, and in a free nation there should be a fundamental right to homeschool.
The Justice Department argues that governments may legitimately use its authority to force parents to send their kids to government sanctioned schools. Since it takes the position that Germany may do that, it follows that the administration believes it has the right to do that in the United States as well.
"It is important that Americans stand up for the rights of German homeschooling families," Farris concludes. "In so doing, we stand up for our own."