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May 19 2013

The government’s role in a child’s education

In a previous post, I wrote about how in the US, the Supreme Court has ruled that although the government cannot force parents to send their children to public schools, the states can set reasonable standards that must be met by the educational system they do choose, whether it be private, parochial, or home school. The catch is what standards can be considered ‘reasonable’. It seems like in the US, the standards seem to be minimal, as can be seen in the fact that Hassidic schools spend seven out of the eight-hour school day on religious studies, which to me constitutes a form of abuse.

Other countries are not nearly as deferential to the views of religious people and groups as the US. In the comments MNb said that an education as provided by the Hassidic schools would not be allowed in The Netherlands. And commenter resident alien mentioned the case of a Germany family that claimed political asylum in the US because of this issue.

The commenter was referring to the case of the Romeike family that wanted to home-school their children. But German law requires parents to send their children to a state approved school, whether public or private, ruling out home schooling except under extreme circumstances, and families can be fined and even lose custody of their children if they persist in flouting the law.

The Romeike family came to the US under the Visa Waiver Program but once here appealed for political asylum, saying that they were suffering religious persecution back home. An immigration judge in 2010 initially granted their request but that was overturned by an Immigration Board of Appeals that said that this was not religious persecution since the law’s consequences applied equally to anyone who home-schooled their children, whether they were religious or not, and so the Romeikes were not being persecuted for their beliefs..

The Romeikes appealed to the federal courts but last month the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously rejected their claim. In the opinion, justice Sutton wrote (citations removed):

Congress might have written the immigration laws to grant a safe haven to people living elsewhere in the world who face government strictures that the United States Constitution prohibits. But it did not. The relevant legislation applies only to those who have a “well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law. 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.

Of course, Christians in the US see any setback as a sign of their victimization and have claimed that this decision is just one more example of the persecution they experience because of their love for Jesus. They have vowed to take the case to the US Supreme Court and also petitioned the Obama administration to allow the family to stay.

3 comments

  1. 1
    smrnda

    Libby Anne from Love Joy Feminism on patheos did a few posts on the Romeike family. The Romeike’s objection to German state schools are that they allege the schools are teaching witchcraft, so the foundation of their religious objection to German schools is already based on a false premise.

    Regrettably, Americans often believe that all ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs ought to get some sort of special treatment, even when they contradict known facts, whether it’s birth control of evolution.

  2. 2
    Pen

    I’m surprised that the Romeikes applied for asylum in the USA, given that they could have moved to most European countries easily. The content of the home education might have been subject to supervision but it is in several US states as well.

  3. 3
    kyoseki

    Of course, Christians in the US see any setback as a sign of their victimization and have claimed that this decision is just one more example of the persecution they experience because of their love for Jesus.

    Don’t forget of course, that in a few years when these children “graduate” believing that science is naught but a tool of the devil, they won’t be taken seriously by (and so fail to be admitted to) any respected University, which their parents will, naturally, claim as further proof of persecution by the liberal academic elite.

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