Homeschoolers Seeking Religious Freedom to Appeal Asylum Rejection

German family seeking religious asylum in U.S. denied en banc review by 6th Circuit

Romeike family / AP
July 16, 2013

The German family seeking asylum in the United States because of religious persecution will appeal to the Supreme Court after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals denied them an appellate hearing before the full court.

The Romeike family requested an en banc hearing before the full circuit after the initial three-judge panel ruled against the family’s asylum request.

"I was disappointed, as you might expect," said Jim Mason, an attorney with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) who is working on the case.

He said the court initially signaled that they might accept the appeal to the full court by requesting that the Department of Justice respond to HSLDA’s written appeal, a rare move.

"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," said HSLDA chairman Michael Farris in a statement announcing the court’s decision.

The Romeikes decided to homeschool their children while they were living in Germany because they disagreed with what the German public schools were teaching their children for religious reasons.

Their local government then began to levy progressively larger fines and threatened to strip the parents of custody of their children. Local law enforcement even came to the family’s house once and forced the children to go to the local public school against the parents’ wishes.

With the fines squeezing the family financially, they fled to Tennessee and applied for asylum. An immigration judge initially granted the family their asylum request before the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the judge’s decision and ordered the family’s deportation.

The family appealed to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, who ruled against the family on the grounds that they were subject to a generally applicable law and not one that singled out religious observers.

"The United States has not opened its doors to every victim of unfair treatment, even treatment that our laws do not allow," the three-judge panel wrote in their unanimous opinion.

Mason said the Supreme Court’s own decisions in the past indicate that it might grant a favorable ruling if it agrees to hear the case.

"We are hopeful that the justices will see it as an important cast to take," Mason said.

The Department of Justice did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Romeike family’s petition to the Supreme Court is due Oct. 11.