Federal court to rule on asylum for German homeschoolers

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Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association.

A federal court of appeals heard arguments April 23 in the case of a Christian family of German homeschoolers seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape the Germany's strict laws against homeschooling.

A judge first granted the family asylum in 2010 but the Obama administration has so far successfully appealed the decision.

“It makes no sense to me why the Obama administration wants to send a German homeschool family home while they are so lenient to so many others,” Michael Farris, founder and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, told the Baptist Press.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, left Germany in 2008 with their five children.  Their country has strict requirements for attendance at an officially recognized school.

Parents who violate the requirements face heavy fines and can lose custody of their children.

The Romeikes had begun to homeschool because of concerns about the curriculum and the behavior of students present in both secular and religious local schools.

They thought they would face only moderate fines, but they soon faced fines of over $11,000 and threats of the loss of custody of their children. Police forcibly took their children to school.

With the support of the Home School Legal Defense Association, they moved to the U.S. and settled in Morristown, Tenn. They have had another child and Mrs. Romeike will give birth to their seventh child soon.

On April 23 in Cincinnati a three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said they may not grant asylum. Their arguments centered on the claim that mistreatment by the German government is not the same as persecution and not a grounds for granting asylum, the Baptist Press reports.

Farris told the judges that the law against homeschooling constitutes persecution because of the “severe” punishments for non-compliance, like removal of the children from their home.

He said that the United Nations has declared the right of parents to direct their children’s education is a fundamental right.

Judge Jeffrey Sutton said that parents may still teach their children outside of school. He also said it is not clear that the German policy results from anti-Christian bias.

Walter Bocchini, an attorney with the Department of Justice, said at the hearing that a foreign government’s violation of rights is not a reason for asylum unless it derives from an intent to persecute a specific group.

The Romeikes cannot apply for U.S. citizenship if they lose the case. They could ask the Department of Homeland Security not to enforce the deportation order.

The appeals court could overrule a January 2010 from a federal immigration judge in Memphis who had initially agreed to grant the family political asylum.

Judge Lawrence O. Burman said the German government’s law was “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” He classified homeschoolers as a group of people with “principled opposition to government policy” who would face persecution because of their religious beliefs and because they were “members of a particular social group,” the New York Times reports.

Over 100,000 supporters of the Romeikes have signed a petition on the White House website asking that the administration grant permanent legal status to the family. The Home School Legal Defense Association organized the petition

Earlier this month, Uwe Romeike told the Mike Huckabee Show on Fox News that the case is about “freedom for parents to decide on their children’s education.”

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