(Photo: Home School Legal Defense Association)
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich were reunited with their children Thursday after they were taken by their German government because the Wunderlichs homeschooled. The Wunderlichs had to agree to send their kids to public school before their kids were returned to them.
On Aug. 29, armed police officers raided the Wunderlich's home and forcibly took their four children, ages 7 to 14. There were no accusations of abuse nor neglect. The Wunderlich's were homeschooling their kids, in violation of German law.
The case has gained attention in the United States through the efforts of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been assisting the Wunderlichs. HSLDA encouraged its supporters to contact German officials and relay their support for the Wunderlichs. An article on the HSLDA website claims that thousands of Americans contacted the German embassy to complain about how the Wunderlichs were treated. HSLDA hopes that their efforts will "change Germany's attitude ... by embarrassing the authorities."
At the time of the raid, the parents pleaded with the police. They agreed to send their kids to public school if the police would not take them away. The police told them at the time that it was too late to make such an agreement. Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA, believes that the international pressure led to the court agreeing to return the Wunderlich children to their parents.
"It's a small victory, but it's still a victory," Farris said. "... What we've seen today is a reversal in the German courts caused by the mounting international pressure from human rights advocates. This is a promising start to what will hopefully be a reversal on Germany's stance on homeschooling altogether."
Farris believes that Germany's mistreatment of homeschoolers is part of a larger problem in Germany in which its citizens are not allowed to live according to the dictates of their conscience.
"The way the parents were forced into complying with the government's wishes is only part of how Germany mistreats its citizens," he said. "The German government loves compromises as long as they ultimately get their way. They were fine with a Muslim teenager wearing a swimsuit with a head covering as long as she took part in co-ed pool activities despite her objections. And now they're fine that the Wunderlich family gets their children back as long as they attend a state school. The attitude of 'Our way or else…' is still very much alive in a supposedly tolerant society."
HSLDA has been helping another German homeschooling family, the Romeikes, that fled to the United States to avoid having their children seized from them. The Obama administration has been trying to deport the Romeikes back to Germany. In a last effort, HSLDA is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear that case.
Farris criticized the Obama administration for not speaking out about the Wunderlich case.
"The State Department says it seeks to promote a greater respect for human rights on its website," he said. "It lists specific examples including freedom of expression and the protection of minorities, but what it doesn't mention is religious freedom. It is clear that the administration doesn't mind that religious homeschoolers in Germany are having their rights trampled upon by the way the Justice Department is going after the Romeike family."