A House committee has approved a bill that would offer protection in the U.S. for homeschoolers who are persecuted in foreign countries.
The Home School Legal Defense Association this week praised the recent decision by the House Judicial Committee to advance H.R. 391, the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act of 2017.
The bill would grant asylum to homeschooling families such as the Romeikes, who were under threat of being forcibly returned to Germany by the Obama administration.
A U.S. court granted the homeschooling family asylum, but Obama administration lawyers appealed the ruling, and it was overturned.
In Germany, authorities likely would pursue jail sentences for the parents for homeschooling their children.
Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman had found that the oppression the Romeikes faced is “repellent to everything we believe as Americans.” But since the revocation of the ruling, the family has lived under an indefinite order of supervision, which prevents them from obtaining permanent residency.
“The stories of the Romeikes and other families such as the Wunderlichs in Germany, the Rigals in Cuba, and the Sandbergs in Sweden demonstrate the repression faced by some families just because they want to homeschool their children,” HSLDA said in a statement.
“We enjoy great liberty in the U.S., but as homeschooling grows, it is facing resistance in a number of countries.”
The organization’s director of federal relations, William Estrada, said the House committee endorsement is the first step toward a law that ultimately would provide a solution for families in Germany, where the nation still operates under a Hitler-era homeschooling ban, and other countries.
“Our advocacy for specific immigration law reform is motivated by the experience of the Romeike family, who applied for asylum in the United States in order to escape Germany and its repressive, anti-homeschool regime,” the organization said.
“By passing this legislation, Congress can demonstrate to the world that homeschooling is a fundamental right that we expect every government to respect.”
WND reported a similar bill in 2015 did not make it to the House floor for a vote and likely would have been vetoed because of the Obama administration’s demonstrated antagonism toward homeschoolers.
As WND has reported, homeschool parents in Germany faced a SWAT team’s battering ram when police demanded to take their children into custody for being homeschooled.
The parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, faced possible four-year jail terms from a judge who has warned, “The law is the law.”
WND reported in 2013 when the government took custody of the children, then ages 7 to 14, from their Darmstadt, Germany, home.
The SWAT team, authorized by a judge to use force if necessary, took the children and told the Wunderlichs they wouldn’t see them again soon because they were violating federal law by homeschooling them.
Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA: “I looked through a side window and saw many people, police and special agents, all armed. They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”
Weeks later, the children were returned home, and a year later an appeals court decided both social workers and parents should be criticized, but the action against the children was “disproportional” to the allegations. The ruling returned custody of the children to their parents.
In the case of the Romeike family, parents Uwe and Hannalore were threatened with fines, jail time and loss of custody of their children had they remained in Germany and continued homeschooling. They made the choice because of teaching in public schools on homosexuality, abortion and other issues that violated the family’s Christian faith.
They fled to the U.S. and sought asylum, only to be turned away by the Obama administration.
Advocates for homeschooling at the time warned the underlying legal precedent in the Romeike family’s case suggests that the government is the best judge of what education is appropriate for children and can require them to attend a school that violates their religious beliefs.
Homeschooling has been banned in Germany since the Hitler era. WND has reported over the years on a German teen who was ordered into a psychiatric ward for being homeschooled and parents who were sentenced to jail terms for homeschooling their children.
The contemporary German government has endorsed Hitler’s view of homeschooling. In 2003, the German Supreme Court handed down the Konrad decision in which “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling was banned.
Four years later, the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.”