The Justice Department’s Violation of Parental Rights

Where does our government stand on parental rights, particularly the right to choose how to educate one’s children? A case going through the courts provides a sobering answer. This case stems from a German family, the Romeikes, who came to the United States for political asylum. These Christian parents wanted to homeschool their children, but it was against German law. Any German citizen disobeying this law is subject to fines, jail sentences, and loss of custody of their own children. Facing such dire consequences, they came to the U.S. where the law supposedly protects parents who choose this option.

The German government has demanded they be returned to their homeland to face prosecution for their actions. Persecution is the more accurate word.

Their cause has been taken up by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). My friend Michael Farris is taking the lead in arguing the case. American law protects people who have fled here due to religious persecution, and there’s no question that is what’s happening. Germany’s ban on homeschooling targets religious people who would, according to the German perspective, set up “religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.” The German government, therefore, views the Romeikes as dangerous to its concept of what society ought to be. As Farris notes, “It is thought control. It is belief control. It is totalitarianism dressed up in politically correct lingo.”

You would think it would be a no-brainer to allow this family to remain in America, but that’s not the position of the Obama Justice Department headed by Eric Holder. The case, Romeike v. Holder, is waiting its turn before the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which is just below the Supreme Court. Why is the U.S. government setting itself up against this family? Farris explains the government’s arguments:

First, they argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. . . .

There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool. . . . This is a view . . . which entirely jettisons the concept of fundamental liberties. . . .

One of the grounds for asylum is if persecution is aimed at a “particular social group.” The definition of a “particular social group” requires a showing of an “immutable” characteristic that cannot change or should not be required to be changed. We contend that German homeschoolers are a particular social group who are being persecuted by their government.

The U.S. government says that Germany’s ban on homeschooling does not meet this standard because, of course, the family can change—they can simply stop homeschooling and let their children go to the public schools. After all, the U.S. government says, the children are only in public schools 22-26 hours a week. After that the parents may teach what they want. . . .

Does anyone think that our government would say to Orthodox Jewish parents, we can force your children to eat pork products for 22-26 hours per week because the rest of the time you can feed them kosher food?

Freedom for the mind and spirit is as important as freedom for the body and spirit.

While I’m deeply concerned for this one family, I’m even more distressed over what the government’s stance could mean for American homeschoolers. Under our current administration, a case could be made for banning homeschooling in America completely. That’s the rationale emanating now from our Justice Department. As Farris warns, quite cogently,

The Attorney General of the United States thinks that a law that bans homeschooling entirely violates no fundamental liberties.

It is important that Americans stand up for the rights of German homeschooling families. In doing so, we stand up for our own.

If you would like to read Farris’s article in whole, go to www.hslda.org/docs/news/2013/201302110.asp.