The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied asylum to a Christian family that came to America to homeschool their children.
As previously reported, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling their six children. Homeschooling was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened. In 2007, the German Supreme Court ruled that the country’s mandate that children be sent to public school is necessary to “counteract the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.”
German officials have been cracking down on families that keep their sons and daughters at home, and have threatened them with fines, imprisonment and even the removal of the children from the household. The Romeike children were taken from their parents for a time before fleeing to the United States for refuge.
In 2010, Memphis immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the family asylum, stating that he believed the Romeike’s would face persecution for their faith if they returned to Germany.
“[The law is] utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” Burman ruled. “[H]omeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution … therefore, they are eligible for asylum … and the court will grant asylum.”
The Romeike’s were overjoyed at the ruling, which was achieved with the help of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
“We were so relieved!” Hannelore stated following the decision. “We had been trying hard not to get our hopes up too high. [The HSLDA attorneys] had assured us that even if we lost at this level, we would appeal and that an appeal could take years. So we knew that we wouldn’t have to go right back to Germany. But to win at this point was such an answer to prayer. Our children were jumping up and down and everyone in the room was hugging us and celebrating. Tears were flowing in gratitude for God’s protection for our family.”
However, the case was later appealed to the Sixth Circuit, and the Department of Justice argued before the court that homeschooling is not a fundamental right.
“[Eric Holder’s office] argued that there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling,” HSLDA president Michael Farris explained to reporters. “There would only be a problem if Germany banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.”
On Tuesday, the court sided with the government, opining that forcing the Romeike’s to send their children to public school does not amount to persecution.
“[T]he Romeikes [have] not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them, whether on grounds of religion or membership in a recognized social group,” the court stated. “There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”
“As the Board of Immigration Appeals permissibly found, the German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution,” it continued. “As a result, we must deny the Romeikes’ petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum.”
“The United States has not opened its doors to every victim of unfair treatment, even treatment that our laws do not allow,” the three-judge panel asserted.
HSLDA plans to appeal the decision.
“We believe the Sixth Circuit is wrong,” Farris said. “America has room for this family and we will do everything we can to help them.”
Mike Donnelly of the organization added that the court’s contention that homeschoolers are not persecuted in Germany was especially erroneous.
“Germany continues to persecute homeschoolers. The court ignored mountains of evidence that homeschoolers are harshly fined and that custody of their children is gravely threatened—something most people would call persecution,” he stated. “This is what the Romeikes will suffer if they are sent back to Germany.”