To most Americans homeschooling seems to be a granted right of parents who don’t want their kids to go to public/private school. But in Germany and many European countries, parents are not so fortunate, because governments outlaw homeschooling and force parents to send their children to a public school at a certain age.
The Romeike family, a devout Christian family who fled to the United States from Germany in 2008, has sought asylum in an effort to freely homeschool their six children.
U.S. law states that individuals can qualify for asylum if they can prove they are being persecuted because of their religious beliefs or because they are members of a particular social group. In 2010, the Romeike family was granted political asylum. Judge Lawrence Berman ruled that the family had a reasonable fear of persecution for what they believes if sent back home. In a statement, he called it “utterly repellent.”
Sadly, the relief was short-lived. Now the Romeike family is facing another battle that will decide if it is able to stay in the U.S.
U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement challenged the decision that has granted the Romeikes asylum, claiming that homeschoolers are not a particular social group because they don’t meet certain legal standards, and the home-schooled population is too vague and amorphous to constitute a social group.
The Romeikes’ case boils down to whether or not parents have the fundamental right to homeschool their children. According to Eric Holder, Attorney General of the Obama administration, there was no violation of anyone’s protected rights in a law that entirely bans homeschooling. There would only be a problem if the German government banned homeschooling for some but permitted it for others.
In other words, the position of the U.S. government is that a nation violates no one’s right if it bans homeschooling entirely. Two major portions of constitutional rights are fundamental liberty and equal protection.
What Mr. Holder said was there is no fundamental right to something as long as the government bans it broadly and equally. This is clearly a fallacy. Based on its logic, the government could curtail freedom of speech so broadly that no one dares to speak against it. Without the universal recognition of fundamental rights, government agents are more likely to trespass individual liberty when enforcing laws.
The attorney general also contended that the Romeikes’ case failed to show there was any religious discrimination because, among other reasons, the Romeikes didn’t prove that all homeschoolers are religious and that not all Christians believe they had to homeschool.
But Mr. Holder doesn’t seem to understand that religious freedom is an individual right. Just because all believers of a particular religion do not abide by a certain standard doesn’t mean individuals who feel compelled to follow this standard do not have the right to do so. Religious decisions must be made by individuals, not by groups. One need not be affiliated to a church or a religious group to be able to make a religious freedom claim. In particular, one does not have to follow the rules of a church to claim religious freedom — one should be able to follow the rules of God himself.
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it very clear in a number of cases that religious freedom is an individual right. Yet our current government seems to not understand this. They only think of us as members of groups and factions. It’s an extreme form of identity politics that undermines individual liberty.
While Romeike v. Holder is crucially and immediately important to one huddled family struggling for freedom, the implications of the arguments currently being presented by the U.S. government against them are important to all American people. Will our courts uphold the rights of parents to raise their children in the ways that seem best to them, or will a government standard be imposed on the 2 million homeschooling families in the U.S.?
The Romeike family will be defending that decision in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 23. Wish it the best of luck.