This column by ACRU Senior Fellow Robert Knight was published April 8, 2013 on The Washington Times website.
In a remarkably short time, Germany recovered smartly from the wreckage of its defeat in World War II to become the economic strongman of Europe. Monuments to the nation’s plunge into Nazism remain at Dachau and other death camps as grim reminders of the dangers of an all-powerful state with a messianic leader.
Curiously, one aspect of the old Nazi state that originated in 1918, even before the Nazis took power, remains: a prohibition on home-schooling. It seems the current education authorities are willing to enforce this draconian law to keep their monopoly.
A courageous German Christian couple refused to hand over their children to the government schools and fled to America three years ago. Now, the Obama administration is trying to send them back. A likely outcome would be the state seizing the children and imprisoning the parents.
In December 2010, U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted asylum to Uwe and Hannalore Romeike, who home-school their five children. The family is living in Tennessee.
The U.S. Agency for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) filed an appeal, arguing that home-schoolers are not a fit category for granting asylum. Keep in mind that they bend the law to grant asylum to others, including same-sex partners. The Board of Immigration Appeals overturned Judge Burman’s decision, and the family is fighting deportation.
Romeike v. Holder is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit and will be heard on April 23.
In his ruling, Judge Burman declared that Germany’s policy abridges “basic human rights that no country has a right to violate” and is “repellent to everything we believe in as Americans.”
Indeed, the United States has long protected parental rights. In 1925, the Supreme Court in Pierce v. Society of Sisters struck down Oregon’s compulsory attendance law: “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”
The Obama administration cited a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which says “the public education laws of Germany do not violate basic human rights.”
Yes, they do. In the United States, we recognize that unalienable rights, including parental rights, come from our Creator. The administration’s treatment of the Romeikes reveals much about what this regime values, and it’s apparently not independent, God-fearing families. “It is disappointing but not surprising that ICE has appealed,” said Michael Donnelly of the Home School Legal Defense Association. “Judge Burman appropriately noted that home-schooling is legal in all 50 states, and his decision reflects U.S. law, which upholds the right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children as an enduring American tradition, entitling the family to protection from persecution.”
Association founder Michael Farris told Breitbart News, “The essence of liberty is to believe what you want and to teach that to your children. Germany bans home-schooling for the express reason that they want all children to embrace the government’s view of the world.”
The Home School Legal Defense Association has a petition supporting the Romeikes on the White House website. The administration will respond officially if 100,000 or more people sign it. Another 74,000 signatures are needed by the April 18 deadline.
The current German policy has a very dark pedigree. As William L. Shirer relates in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, the National Socialist Workers Party quickly moved to abrogate parental rights.
In a Nov. 6, 1933 speech, Adolf Hitler warned parents: “I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to us already. You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.”
On May 1, 1937, he said: “This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
After Germany invaded Austria in 1938, the Nazis quickly de-Christianized the schools. In her book The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, Maria von Trapp, the real-life Maria played by Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music,” related how one of her daughters came home to report that “the teacher said that Jesus was only a naughty Jewish boy who ran away from his parents.”
During a family meeting, a child explained, “In school, we are not permitted to sing any religious songs with the names of Christ or Christmas. We can hardly sing any Bach for that reason.”
In America, many liberals hide their contempt for Christianity behind a facade of “tolerance.” After a CNN interview I did a few years ago about American schools deleting “Christmas” and creating “Winter Concerts,” and how this reminded me of Maria von Trapp’s reminisince, I got a letter from a prominent liberal accusing me of belittling the Holocaust. It didn’t make a lick of sense, since the Holocaust never came up even remotely. My citing Mrs. von Trapp’s account of the Nazis’ repression of Christianity set him off, though. The charge was so off-the-wall that I didn’t bother responding.
In another memoir titled Maria, Mrs. Von Trapp wrote about her and her husband Georg’s decision to flee Austria: “There was no real question what God wanted. As a family it was decided that we wanted to keep Him. We understood that this meant we had to get out.”
The Romeike family came to the same conclusion and expected to find refuge in America, where freedom of religion is enshrined in the First Amendment.
It would be more than a shame if they find out they were wrong.