The Romeike Family and Asylum: Why I Don’t Buy Into the Homeschool Persecution Excuse

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The Romeike Family and Asylum: Why I Don’t Buy Into the Homeschool Persecution Excuse, By Lana Hope

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on April 7, 2013.

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Just so you know, before you read this, I don’t think homeschooling should be illegal.

So there’s this family, the Romeike family, living in America under asylum — claiming to be under the threat of religious persecution from their home country Germany who does not allow them to homeschool. And now the US government says this family may get deported – because they weren’t exactly persecuted.

While the Religious Right is busy using this as a card to blame the Obama administration (which confused me since Obama was here in 2010 when the family was first granted asylum), HSLDA — Home School Legal Defense Association — is using the opportunity to stir up of fears of Americans losing their right to homeschool.

Focus on the Family spokesman and Truth Project founder Dr. Del Tackett yesterday declared his support for HSLDA’s efforts to defend the Romeike family. Tackett believes that the U.S. government is siding with the restrictive homeschooling laws in Germany and that this could have serious implications for American homeschoolers.

“[The U.S. government] doesn’t believe that parents have a right to educate their children,” Tackett said. “It is more in line with the National Education Association that homeschooling shouldn’t be allowed. It believes that the government can best educate ‘America’s children.’ It doesn’t want another worldview taught in this country. It wants America’s children to have one worldview and one worldview only.”

Notice the phrase “this could have serious implications for American homeschoolers.” To me, this sounds like someone is intentionally stirring up fear, and fear is what keeps HSLDA in business, an organization who is fighting to ensure that America does not sign the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child. Quoting HSLDA’s late director, “if children have rights, they could refuse to be home-schooled, plus it takes away parents’ rights to physically discipline their children.”

No, I don’t particularly trust HSLDA.

I can’t say if America will see the day that homeschooling is illegal (I see no evidence to lead me to believe this), but the significant part to me is that HSLDA and Focus on the Family have already made it clear that this is not about whether or not this family fits the requirement of an asylum case or much about this German family at all.

Instead, this is about politics and implications on our rights. This is about American homeschooling first and foremost, not the Romeike family. That’s why everyone is asked to sign the petition for the future of homeschooling that just happens to also involve the rights of a German family.

To me, that’s just a tacky way to build up more homeschool fears.

But Michael Farris, of HSLDA, made another political comment related to homeschooling rights. This is also about “religious” rights. Again, I quote HSLDA.

The U.S. government contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show that there was any discrimination based on religion because, among other reasons, the Romeikes did not prove that all homeschoolers were religious, and that not all Christians believed they had to homeschool.

This argument demonstrates another form of dangerous “group think” by our own government. The central problem here is that the U.S. government does not understand that religious freedom is an individual right. One need not be a part of any church or other religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. Specifically, one doesn’t have to follow the dictates of a church to claim religious freedom—one should be able to follow the dictates of God Himself.

The United States Supreme Court has made it very clear in the past that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government does not seem to understand this.

I admit I am still a little confused.

The US government already made it clear that this is not a religious issue.

Germany has not said that parents cannot teach their kids religion. Religion is even taught in school in Germany. So Farris sort of agrees for a minute, and then brings this back to God. In part, I agree — that parents should be allowed to hear from God about educational choices as long as it’s reasonable.

Simply put, by making this a religious issue, they are pounding in the religious persecution line, enforcing the poor-me stereotype that white first world Christians have it rough, and implanting fear that some day we will lose all our religious freedom, not just homeschool freedom (See Focus on the Family who is partnering with HSLDA in this, who has said that American Evangelicals are already being persecuted and will be more persecuted in my lifetime.)

Apparently the Supreme Court in Germany banned homeschooling (though exceptions are granted) because it, “counteract[s] the development of religious and philosophically motivated parallel societies.” This is what Mike Farris says about it:

This sounds elegant, perhaps, but at its core it is a frightening concept. This means that the German government wants to prohibit people who think differently from the government (on religious or philosophical grounds) from growing and developing into a force in society.

As one who grew up in Farris’ so-called Joshua Generation, I had a chuckle at what Farris says. No, evangelical fundamental homeschooling will never be a significant force at any global or even national levels, and I doubt any government feels threatened by it. But I can tell you where the force does hit. Wacko religious ideas do harm homeschool children. They harmed me, and I can almost guarantee they are harming the Romeike children over it.

I don’t agree with Germany that homeschooling should be illegal over this (but I will give it to Germany that their schools do have a high quality education). But Farris makes me laugh if he still believes somehow that conservative homeschooling is going to overtake the world. Really, how?

On the more practical note: I know the Romeike family has already stirred things up in Germany and perhaps the German government will not work with them now (I don’t know either way), but nevertheless, Germany does allow exceptions for traveling families. In my homeschool group over in Asia, we had two homeschooling families from Germany — with German passports — in our homeschool group. They simply applied for a volunteer visa overseas, and they are contributing to another culture at the same time. And they go home to visit Germany, and the government has never told them they can’t go back overseas. Just an observation.

The Romeikes also had the option of moving to another country in the EU and applying for a Green card to America like everyone else. Of course, they also had the option of applying for asylum, but they did run the risk that sooner or later, someone was going to say, “Hey, you are from a very first world country with a really great education system with religious private schools as an option too. You are not persecuted for your faith.”

The Romeikes’ lawyer and Farris keep pointing out that the German government will remove the Romeike kids if the family returns. But that’s only if they don’t send their kids to school. It’s not complicated.

Tribes from Burma and Syria — whose immediate lives are threatened — those are the lives who are endangered, and those are who should get the asylum spots.

Of course, after living over in Asia, I do have a soft spot for immigration, I admit. (Granted, that’s why I’m not in politics and instead work in humanitarian aid, lol.) And I’m not really into deporting people. They are here now. Nevertheless, I don’t think they should get an aslyum spot.

One closing thought I had after reading an article over at Homeschool Anonymous. Brittany writes that as a homeschool kid she was terrifed of public school. I can’t help but relate this to the unhealthy fears that the Romieke family is implanting in their kids by telling them that their “schools taught witchcraft based on a game.” (I had to laugh since my mother told me witchcraft stories to keep me from asking to go to sleepovers.) Perhaps these kind of ideas is the very reason Germany decided to make homescooling, for the most part, illegal.

You know, I get Germany a lot more than I understand the conservative ideas I grew up hearing.

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4 responses to “The Romeike Family and Asylum: Why I Don’t Buy Into the Homeschool Persecution Excuse

  1. I can’t say I disagree with the governments position for the precise reason HSLDA disagrees, but I remain troubled by their position. To say that this is not a religious exemption because a) not all Christians are homeschoolers, and b) not all homeschoolers are Christians denies the diversity of religious practices, both within a particular faith and across faiths. If I were to claim pacifism as a reason not to apply for a military draft, the same arguments can be used to force me into conscription, as a) not all Christians are morally opposed to war and b) not all war protesters do so under religious compulsion.

    I really haven’t followed the case too much, although enough to know this is an incredibly unique and complex issue. I just thought this particular argument was weak, socio-politically speaking.

  2. Pingback: Michael Farris’s Lies, Damned Lies, and Bad Sources: Testimony before the Senate on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Part 1·

  3. Pingback: Michael Farris’s Testimony Before the Senate on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Part 1: By Rachel Lazerus | H . A·

  4. “Tribes from Burma and Syria — whose immediate lives are threatened — those are the lives who are endangered, and those are who should get the asylum spots.”

    Thank you for highlighting this issue–it’s always bothered me that as EU citizens the Romeikes have the privilege to move practically anywhere in the EU and some non-EU countries like Norway (http://ec.europa.eu/justice/policies/citizenship/docs/guide_free_movement_low.pdf) where homeschooling is legal.

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