Advancing the goal of tolerance in society may require denying parents the right to determine their children's education, the U.S. Justice Department argued in a legal brief for the case of a German homeschooling family seeking asylum.
The Romeikes fled to the United States from Germany when they were faced with heavy fines and the possibility of having their children taken away from them for choosing to homeschool rather than send their children to the German public schools. They chose to homeschool because they believed the public schools were teaching their children lessons antithetical to their evangelical Christian beliefs.
Though they were initially granted asylum by a district judge, an immigration court and the Justice Department has sought to send them back to Germany. In May, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Justice Department. The Justice Department's June 26 brief is in response to a request for a rehearing of the case filed by the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is representing the Romeikes.
In the brief, the Justice Department supports a German court's reasoning for forcing the Romeikes to send their children to public school.
The value of Germany's law, the DOJ explained, is to bring "people of differing views together to learn from each other and to learn to accept those whose views differ from their own." The brief praised this goal of an "open, pluralistic society."
"Teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen of Germany," the DOJ wrote.
With this goal in mind, the brief continued, it is "scarcely feasible" that Germany is persecuting homeschoolers.
Since Germany's mandatory public schooling law applies to everyone, not just homeschoolers, the department reasons, it does not discriminate against homeschoolers.
In other words, it is reasonable, the Justice Department argues, for Germany to work toward the goal of an open, pluralistic society by forcing the children of religious minorities to attend public school.
The Justice Department brief also states in the introduction that government, rather than parents, should decide whether homeschools, public schools, or private schools are best.
The "propriety of homeschooling versus schooling in a public or private school" is a judgment "properly left to the political branches of government," the brief states.
In response to the brief, Michael Farris, chairman of HSLDA, argued that what the Justice Department calls pluralism is not really pluralism.
While pluralism seeks to respect a diversity of views, the Romeikes removed their children from the public schools because they believed their views were not respected in the public schools. Their view that their children would best be served by homeschooling was also not respected by Germany.
"Targeting religious minorities for the purpose of suppressing 'parallel societies,' however, is the antithesis of pluralism," Farris wrote.
The reasoning found in the Justice Department's brief was similar to that of some American legal scholars who also argue against a parent's right to determine their children's education, Farris continued.
"American legal academics have made the argument that American homeschooling should be banned or curtailed to promote tolerance. The [attorney general's] argument marches to the dangerous cadence of the drumbeat of these scholars. Silencing the 'intolerant' to promote tolerance is not only illogical; it is antithetical to any theory of freedom of conscience," he wrote.