WASHINGTON — The United States Supreme Court has ordered Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice to respond to a petition to appeal from a Christian homeschooling family that is fighting deportation to their homeland of Germany.
As previously reported, 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. 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was made illegal in the country in 1938 under the dictatorship of Adolph Hitler, and the law has never been repealed, but rather strengthened.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, then appealed the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The government initially waived its right to respond, apparently thinking that Romeike v. Holder wasn’t worthy of the court’s consideration,” James Mason, Director of Litigation for HSLDA, told Charisma News. “Clearly, someone in the Supreme Court disagrees. While the odds of the court taking any case are very low, this has increased the chances—but it is impossible to predict whether the court will ultimately accept the case.”
Uwe Romeike says that he is praying that the Supreme Court will give their case a chance.
“We are extremely grateful for the work of HSLDA in support of our family,” he told reporters. “We hope that the Supreme Court will hear our appeal and that we may be able to stay here. America is a land of freedom and we cannot go back to Germany where our children will be taken from us just because we homeschool.”
The Obama administration has until December 19th to submit its response to the Supreme Court. The court then will weigh whether it will accept the case based on the legal briefs received from both sides.