A Christian homeschooling family that has been fighting the U.S. Department of Justice in an effort to avoid deportation to their homeland of Germany will now appeal their legal challenge to the nation’s highest court.
Ewe and Hannelore Romeike have been battling the matter in the courts for several years while continuing to raise their six children in rural Tennessee. As previously reported, the Romeike family fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling in violation of national law.
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was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened.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. However, the Department of Justice later appealed the ruling to the Sixth Circuit, which overturned Burman’s decision.
“[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 ruled. “There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”
In court documents filed by the Department of Justice, the Obama administration asserted that the requirement that German children be sent to public school is valid as the government seeks to create an “open, pluralistic society.” It asserted that German officials are not persecuting the family by mandating attendance since the law applies to all citizens, regardless of their religion.
As the Sixth Circuit recently denied a request for rehearing, the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which has been representing the family in court, now vows to appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“This is not over yet,” Michael Farris, founder and chairman of HSLDA, wrote in a news release announcing the planned appeal. “We are taking this case to the Supreme Court because we firmly believe that this family deserves the freedom that this country was founded on. Despite [the court’s] order, the Sixth Circuit’s opinion contains two clear errors: First, they wholly ignored Germany’s proclamation that a central reason for banning homeschooling is to suppress religious minorities. Second, the Sixth Circuit erred when it failed to address the claim that parental rights are so fundamental that no government can deny parents the right to choose an alternative to the public schools.”
He noted that the Romeikes could be fined thousands of dollars and face possible jail time if they are forced to return to Germany and refuse to send their children to a secular school against their conscience.
“The German High Court is on record for saying that religious homeschoolers should be targeted and severely punished, yet our Justice Department sees nothing wrong with that,” Farris lamented. “The attorney general and Sixth Circuit are ignoring critical evidence and are trying to send back this family who is trying to stay in our country legally. We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will go the other way and see what the original immigration judge saw: that this family and other religious homeschoolers in Germany are being persecuted for what they believe is the right way to raise their children.”
The organization has until October 11 to file a petition of appeal.