WASHINGTON – A German family who chose to homeschool their six children for religious reasons is currently still residing in the United States and their legal counsels say they're willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court to fight for their right to receive political asylum in the U.S.
Jim Mason, senior counsel and litigation director of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), told The Christian Post that HSLDA received a response to their letter from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesay basically saying that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit made the right decision in deciding that the Romeike family should not have asylum in the U.S.
Mason said that the homeschool legal group will file a reply to the DOJ. And his colleague Michael Donnelly, HSLDA's director of International Relations and Staff Counsel, said if the Sixth Circuit Court won't rehear the case, "we're heading to the Supreme Court."
On May 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Uwe and Hannelor Romeike, who had been fined thousands of Euros and forcibly separated from their children by the German government, do not merit asylum in the United States. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) requested a rehearing on May 29, and received a response from the Department of Justice (DOJ) this week.
Donnelly laid out the errors in the court's opinion at an event hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Federal law offers foreigners asylum if they "can demonstrate past persecution or well-founded fear of future persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion."
Judge Lawrence Berman, the original federal immigration judge who heard the case, defended the Romeikes' well-founded fear of persecution on the grounds of religion and membership in the social group of German homeschoolers.
Under the leadership of Attorney General Eric Holder, the Obama Administration appealed because "homeschooling is not a fundamental right" and "homeschoolers are not a recognizable social group."
Donnelly explained the argument of the Department of Justice: "Germany's applying that to everyone – no one is being singled out." This "neutral law applied to everybody" is a matter of "prosecution, not persecution."
Daniel Blomberg, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, explained the holes in these arguments.
The law against homeschooling "is based on a law passed in 1938 by Hitler's Germany, which explicitly exists to stamp out religious beliefs, so the state can mold children into its preferred image."
Blomberg quoted the stated purpose of the law, "to ensure the education and training of German youth in the spirit of National Socialism."
The current law, while no longer National Socialist, "exists to forcibly conform German children into government- approved cookie-cutter citizens, regardless of their religious heritage, and in fact precisely to destroy their religious heritage," said Blomberg.
To demonstrate this, both Donnelly and Blomberg quoted the opinion of the German High Court in the 2003 Conrad case, which defended high fines on another homeschooling family. "The state has an interest in counteracting parallel societies and integrating minorities," Donnelly quoted.
HSLDA's Mason said the Romeikes' case could be a symptom of "the legal drift away from parental rights."
"Some of the academics who are writing on the subject today realize that specifically religious homeschoolers do not share their worldview," he said. "There is a growing body of academic writing urging more state direction of homeschooling, for the same reasons the German government outlaws homeschooling."
Blomberg noted that homeschooling is permitted "for secular reasons – for your job or for health concerns – but not for religious reasons." The very purpose of the law, and the 2003 court decision, stands contrary to the Obama Administration's argument that "no one is being singled out."
The Becket Fund counsel also listed "other particular social groups" to whom the United States has granted asylum in the past. These include "parents of Burmese student dissidents,…Mexican men who identify themselves as women and are sexually attracted to other men, … and former members of a Salvadoran street gang."
"The government says that homeschoolers – in comparison to those groups – are too amorphous and too difficult to identify," Blomberg noted.
Although the court decided against them, the Romeike family is still living in Tennessee. "As I understand it, the Romeikes are legally in the country for as long as their appeal is pending," he wrote in an email statement. A petition to rehear their case has garnered over 126,00 signatures online.