Michael De Groote, Deseret News
The U.S. Justice Department wants to send an evangelical family back to Germany where their children may be taken from them. The immigration/asylum case of the Romeike family has drawn the attention of many who say this is a situation of religious persecution by Germany and indifference by the Obama administration.
The Christian Post gives the background: "The Romeikes fled to the United States from Germany when they were faced with heavy fines and the possibility of having their children taken away from them for choosing to home-school rather than send their children to the German public schools. They chose to home-school because they believed the public schools were teaching their children lessons antithetical to their evangelical Christian beliefs."
The New York Times said Germany is "nearly alone" in Europe in its ban on home-schooling: "The school can be private or religious, but it must be a school. Exceptions can be made for health reasons but not for principled objections."
The family came to the U.S. in 2008. In 2010, the family was granted asylum. The district judge who made that decision said, according to the New York Times, that the German policy was "utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans." He also cited the severity of the penalties the family faced.
Germany had levied fines of more than $11,000, threatened to take away the parents' custody of the children and even had police take the children by force to school.
The Christian Post reported what happened after asylum was granted: "Though they were initially granted asylum by a district judge, an immigration court and the Justice Department has sought to send them back to Germany. In May, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Justice Department."
The Huffington Post described the Sixth Circuit's reasoning: "The U.S. grants safe haven to people who have a well-founded fear of persecution, but not necessarily to those under governments with laws that simply differ from those in the U.S., Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the court's decision."
Because the German law applied to everybody, the court said the Romeikes were not being singled out for persecution. The family would have to be deported.
That ruling was presided over by three judges of the court. On May 28, the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been handling the Romeikes' case for them, filed an appeal to have the entire 15 judges of the Sixth Circuit review the case.
A press release from the HSLDA says its petition "focuses considerable attention on the fact that the panel never mentions the German high court's admission that Germany's ban on home-schooling is motivated by the desire to suppress religious and philosophical 'parallel societies.' The panel also never mentions that the German government targets home-schoolers in order to prevent 'the damage to the children, which is occurring through the continued exclusive teaching of the children of the mother at home.’ ”
The brief from the Department of Justice responds that the German government would have treated anyone who violated the compulsory school attendance law the same way it has the Romeikes — whether they refused to send children to school for secular or for religious reasons. This general application of the law means, it says, that this has nothing to do with religious persecution.
The Department of Justice says the German law was created to bring "people of differing views together to learn from each other and to learn to accept those whose views differ from their own. The goal in Germany is for an 'open, pluralistic society.' Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen of Germany."
It says the only motivation in fining and threatening the Romeikes was "law enforcement."
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