The best teacher I ever had once convinced our 10th grade class through logic and reasoned argument that Hitler was completely justified in exterminating the Jews. We could not find a single fault in his logical arguments. Then he showed us a movie of live footage from the Concentration Camps of WWII. When the lights came back on, most of us were crying. We felt like every one of us had just thrown a living human being into that evil furnace. I wanted to turn myself over to the police immediately for my crime.
“Never forget,” he told us, “Always examine the premise.If the premise is flawed, all the logical arguments derived from it are flawed. Always examine the premise.”
Anyone who cares about individual liberty, parental rights, and religious freedom should be very troubled by the Department of Justice stand against an Immigration court ruling that permitted asylum to a persecuted homeschool family from Germany. The Romeike family is one of less than 500 brave souls in Germany who defy the Nazi-era law that prohibits home schooling. Evangelical Christians, the Romeikes refused to send their children to the state school, desiring to raise them with the religious beliefs and ideals they hold to be sacred and true. The German government first fined them, then threatened jail, and then forcibly removed the children sending them to the public school. The Romeikes got VISAs legally, came to the United States, and applied for asylum, arguing that were they to return to Germany, their children would be taken from them.
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) argued the Romeike’s case, seeking refugee status for the family based on two basic principles. Both arguments were based on human rights violations. First, HSLDA argued that the Romeike’s religious freedom was violated, and secondly that they were persecuted for being part of a distinct social group (home schoolers). The lower Immigration court agreed on both counts.
But The Department of Justice (DOJ) disagreed, and the case was challenged. The DOJ claimed that the rights of Americans apply to our country, not to other countries. Germany does not allow home schooling, the DOJ argued, and does not violate the Romeike’s human rights.
Many are asking why the Feds would take this on? Why overturn a court ruling, and deport a family that followed all the legal paths to come to this country, apply for asylum, and by all counts, is a good and productive family seeking only to raise their family in the manner they believe is best? Didn’t America come into existence because of the desire for religious and personal liberty, free from the tyranny of a government that sought to restrict those inalienable rights?
HSLDA ‘s Michael Donnely, who will be one of the attorneys arguing the case at the 6th Court of Appeals in Ohio, says the DOJ is appealing under a wrong standard of review. The DOJ wrongfully does not recognize home schoolers as a group for the purpose of human rights violations, and secondly, that the religious freedom of the Romeike’s was not being violated.
How could the DOJ support their position?
The DOJ claimed that home schoolers were not a distinct group, but so amorphous and broad as to be disqualified as “distinct”. In terms of religious freedom, the DOJ claimed that since not every home schooler is religious, it could not be argued that the home school was persecuted for religious reasons. Additionally, the DOJ argued that because everyone in Germany was equally banned from home schooling, everyone was equally protected by law.
Michael Donnely calls this stance, “Equal persecution with equal protection.” Basically, what the DOJ is saying is that if everyone is equally denied a basic right, then it is not persecution since the standard is equally applied. If this doesn’t make you choke on your own rising bile, I don’t know what will. And the fact that the Romeikes are not a member of a defined social group, in the DOJ opinion, their individual religious right being violated is of no legal consequence.
The DOJ stance is troubling on many levels. Is the individual right to religious freedom and raising one’s children as the parent sees fit a protected human right? If so, and certainly, most people in America would argue that of course it is, then why has the DOJ chosen to challenge the lower Immigration court ruling? And why challenge with language that denies individual religious freedom to those who are not part of a distinct social group, or even not to recognize home schoolers as a distinct social group?
The premise of the DOJ’s argument is worrisome. If home schools equally banned are considered equally protected by law, then could this argument be turned against home schoolers in this country? Donnely is quick to point out that the Federal Government cannot ban home school, at least not legally, not yet…. Home school legal status is a state decision and currently legal in all 50 states.
However, there is a strong effort to pass a Common Core Standard now in the United States. 45 states have passed this Common Core curriculum. The educational standards, goals, curriculum, and tests would be consistent across states. It is not a federal initiative but was developed with input from the NEA. Clearly, this administration is no fan of home schools, and is supportive of national educational standards and curriculum. The trend is not encouraging to individual educational choice, and the DOJ stance regarding the Romeike’s is not either. In Germany, it was the common national curriculum that the Romeike’s objected to.
I remember crying as a 10th grader when my teacher convinced me, against every fiber of my being that Hitler was justified in the Holocaust. Examine the premise, always examine the premise…and if the premise is flawed, all arguments proceeding from that premise are likewise flawed.
Are religious freedom, rights of parents, and individual liberty inalienable rights that shall not be infringed upon…or not?
If you would like to stand with the Romeike family, please go here to sign the petition and receive updates.
By: Vicky Kaseorg
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