(Photo: Home School Legal Defense Association)
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an order that the Department of Justice must respond to a rehearing request regarding the legal status of a German homeschooling family.
Issued last Wednesday, the Sixth Circuit's order was done on behalf of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is presenting the Romeike family.
James R. Mason III, senior counsel with the HSLDA, told The Christian Post that the court's order was "a step in the right direction."
"Most requests for en banc rehearing are summarily denied without any further action," said Mason. "Here, the court has requested that the Justice Department respond, indicating that the court is taking our petition seriously."
The Romeikes – Uwe, Hannelore and their six children – opted to homeschool because they felt German public schools were teaching their children values contrary to their evangelical Christian beliefs.
According to German education law, homeschooling can only be permitted under certain circumstances like prolonged illness or extensive work-related family travel.
In 2008, the Romeikes fled Germany in response to possible punishments over homeschooling outside of the allowed exceptions.
While first granted asylum in 2010, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement appealed the decision in 2012 and was supported by the Board of Immigration Appeals. The Department of Justice sided with BIA, arguing against the reasons for granting asylum to the Romeike family.
Last month, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled against the Romeike family. Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote the opinion.
"There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law," said Sutton.
"As the Board of Immigration Appeals permissibly found, the German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution. As a result, we must deny the Romeikes' petition for review and, with it, their applications for asylum."
Mason of HSLDA told CP that the three-judge panel's decision against the Romeike family was a problematic one given it did not consider Germany's obligations on education rights.
"The Sixth Circuit's opinion failed to follow precedents that say that a violation of human-rights treaties may be considered when a country prosecutes its citizens contrary to the treaties it is obligated to follow," said Mason.
"Germany is a party to treaties that say that parents have the right to direct the education of their children and the U.N. has criticized Germany for violating its treaty obligations by outlawing homeschooling."
In response to the Sixth Circuit panel's decision, HSLDA filed a request for rehearing on May 29 with the hopes of having the case reheard with a full court, or "en banc" court.