Supreme Court Denies Appeal From German Home-Schoolers

By Mark Walsh — March 03, 2014 3 min read
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[UPDATE Wednesday 10:55 a.m. The Associated Press reports that a lawyer for the Romeikes says he has been informed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that deportation proceedings against the family have been deferred indefinitely, meaning they can stay in this country as long as they stay out of legal trouble.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned away an appeal from a German family that is seeking U.S. asylum because it contends that it faces persecution for home schooling in their native country.

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, the parents of five children, moved to the United States in 2008 to escape Germany’s compulsory-education law, which dates to 1938 and requires all children to attend public or government-approved private schools.

The Romeikes object to public school because they believe their Christian religious beliefs would be undermined by such things as the teaching of evolution, sex education, and respect for homosexuality. They also refuse to send their children to state-approved private schools in Germany because such schools must use the same textbooks as the public schools.

The family contends in court papers that Germany’s ban on religious homeschooling has its roots in the Nazi era, when the Germans barred all private education to promote philosophical uniformity. The modern prohibition, which includes a small number of exemptions such as for circus performers, violates several international human rights treaties, the family maintains.

When the Romeikes pulled their children out of German schools in 2006, they were visited by the police, who seized their children and took them to school. When the parents pulled them out again, the police arrived for the next school day, but they backed off. Authorities instead decided to issue fines to the family that grew to about $9,000 by the time they left Germany.

In the United States, a federal immigration judge granted them asylum in late 2008. But the Board of Immigration Appeals and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, ruled against them.

The 6th Circuit court ruled last year that the Romeikes could not show that Germany’s enforcement of its general school attendance law amounted to persecution against them on religious or other grounds.

“For better or worse, Germany punishes any and all parents who fail to comply with the school attendance law, no matter the reasons they provide,” the appeals court said.

The family appealed to the Supreme Court with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association, based in Purcellville, Va. The group told the justices that the federal courts of appeals are split in asylum cases on whether a foreign prosecution under a general law may constitute persecution if the law in question violates international human rights standards.

The group says such international standards ensure that parents have the right to choose an education for their children that conforms to the parents’ moral convictions.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. filed a brief urging the justices to reject the appeal, saying the 6th Circuit court and Board of Immigration Appeals had correctly ruled against the family.

Verrilli said that, among other reasons, the case made a poor vehicle for deciding whether there was a circuit split on the relevant asylum question because the family had failed to introduce the text and history of the 1938 German compulsory school law.

He noted that both the European Court of Human Rights and Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court have upheld the compulsory school law against human rights challenges.

The justices on March 3 declined without comment to hear the family’s appeal in Romeike v. Holder (Case No. 13-471).

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.