Deportation Suggests Ominous Shift in Family Policies

Panelists warn about restrictions on home schooling

Uwe Romeike teaching two of his children in 2009 / AP

Legal experts said the deportation of a family seeking asylum suggests the U.S. government is moving in the direction of denying parents the right to decide how their children are educated at a lecture Wednesday.

The Family Research Council hosted the discussion titled, "Should the State Raise Your Kids," featuring Michael Donnelly, director of international affairs at the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

The case raising the question is that of the German Romeike family, which sought asylum in 2008, claiming that the German government’s refusal to let them home school their children was tantamount to persecution. The Obama administration dismissed the family’s plea for asylum in the United States.

Americans should ask themselves if they believe the state should be allowed to encroach on parents’ rights to make health related and education decisions for their children, Donnelly said.

"Those are the kinds of decisions parents should be able to make and the government should be protecting that not trying to encroach on it further," Donnelly said.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike began home schooling their children in 2006 because they felt the public school curriculum did not adhere to their Christian beliefs. As a result, the government heavily fined the family and once seized the children and forced them to attend school.

Germany prohibits home school education unless a parent’s job requires frequent moves or the child has disabilities, said Blomberg. The law orders all school age students to attend a public or state-run school.

An immigration judge granted the family asylum in 2010 because he said the Romeikes had a justified fear of religious persecution if they returned to Germany.

The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the first ruling in 2012 arguing that Germany was prosecuting the family for "breaking a neutral law applied to everybody" not persecuting them for their religion, according to Donnelly.

Donnelly presented a video featuring the Romeike family talking about their fears of returning to Germany.

"They would try to ruin our family," Uwe Romeike said. "For the German government it’s important to have first right on education of children because they want to impose their worldview, rather than have parents forming their children according to their worldview, which might be different."

The Romeikes appealed their case in April to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals but the board’s decision was upheld.

Donnelly said the Romeikes deserve asylum, citing a clause in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) protecting them as a "recognized social group persecuted" because of "their religion."

"Germany is actively seeking to prevent the Romeikes and others like them from exercising their fundamental right to live their faith," Blomberg said. "That’s precisely why this nation has an asylum law in the first place so that we can serve as a refuge for those who’ve been denied their most fundamental human rights."

The Romeikes are currently appealing the 6th Circuit and asking that the entire court hear their case, not just the three-panel judge that heard their case on April 23. If the court denies the appeal, the family will go to the Supreme Court, said Donnelly.