The US has a fine history, starting from its very inception, of being a refuge for those fleeing political and religious oppression. Typically in this day and age, when we consider those seeking asylum here we think of people fleeing places like China, Iran, or North Korea; totalitarian governments whose overarching political philosophies broach no opposition. Sadly one of the latest cases comes to us from a modern democracy and American ally – Germany. From the article in Time:
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are not like other asylum seekers, people fleeing war or torture in places like Afghanistan, Iraq or Somalia. They’re music teachers from a village in southern Germany. And yet, in what appears to be the first case of its kind, the couple and their five children were granted asylum in the U.S. last week by an immigration judge who ruled that they had a “well-founded fear of persecution” in their home country for engaging in what has become a popular albeit somewhat controversial American practice — homeschooling their children.
The Romeikes, who are Evangelical Christians, took their three eldest children out of school in the town of Bissingen in 2006 because they were concerned about the impact the government-approved curriculum and the public-school environment would have on their social development. “Over the past 10 to 20 years, the curriculum in public schools in Germany has been more and more against Christian values, and my eldest children were having problems with violence, bullying and peer pressure. It’s important for parents to have the freedom to choose the way their children can be taught,” Uwe Romeike said in a statement provided by the couple’s attorney, Michael Donnelly of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
But here’s the problem: in Germany it’s compulsory for children to attend school, and the Romeikes soon found themselves on the wrong side of the law. Local authorities slapped the couple with a $10,000 fine, and police even took their children to school when the Romeikes refused to send them. Fearing that they could lose custody of their kids or even be put in jail, the Romeikes fled to the U.S. in 2008, looking for a community where they could educate their kids as they saw fit.
As someone who has homeschooled my own children when I felt it was necessary, and as someone who is old enough to remember when homeschoolers were openly persecuted in our own country, I applaud this ruling by the immigration judge. I hope it becomes a trend; I can think of no better way to shame Germany and other like-minded governments to rescind these draconian and repressive laws.