August 27, 2009
Human rights advocates are calling the case of a German homeschooling family "a critical human rights battle." On September 22nd, the Schmidt family of southern Bavaria in Germany will face a hearing in which government officials will decide if they may keep custody of one of their sons.
Hans and Petra Schmidt have been teaching their children, Josua, 16, and Aaron, 14, for more than nine years in an attempt to shield them from what they hold to be a hostile moral and heavily secularised environment in German public schools. To date the Schmidts have been forced to pay nearly 13,000 Euros (US $18,300) in home schooling fines and have had a lien placed on their home by the government.
But worse than fines is the threat by the Jugendamt, or Youth Office, to remove one of their children from the home entirely. The family's younger son, Aaron is still subject to the mandatory school attendance laws.
The Schmidts have been in talks with local authorities in hope of finding a suitable arrangement in which Aaron could continue to be taught at home without forcing the family into bankruptcy by fines. Although the children were tested by the school authorities and found to have extraordinarily high academic abilities and to be socially competent, officials are still threatening to seize the younger boy. It is commonly held by the German authorities that homeschooled children are socially maladjusted.
The family is being defended with the help of the International Human Rights Group (IHRG), based in Rome, Georgia. The IHRG informed LifeSiteNews.com that the family's plight will be the subject of a documentary news report by a correspondent for the 700 Club, a news talk show of the Christian Broadcasting Network. The IHRG is calling the Schmidt case "a critical human rights battle" and is asking the international community for financial support in the case.
Germany is undertaking a crackdown on homeschooling families who face crippling fines, the seizure of their children and even prison for continuing to teach their children at home. In 1938, Hitler's Germany outlawed homeschooling which ban is one of the few bills introduced by the Nazi regime that is still on the books today. Recently legal aid and human rights organisations have noted that homeschooling Christian families in Germany are opting to leave the country rather than break up families or submit to ruinous fines.
Last year the parents of a homeschooling family in the state of Hesse, Jürgen and Rosemarie Dudek, were each sentenced to three months in prison. In 2007 the case of the Busekros family became internationally notorious when 15 year-old Melissa Busekros was abducted by government officials, aided by 15 police officers, and locked up in a child psychiatric unit because she had been homeschooled. Files on Melissa stated that she was locked up because she "considers herself healthy and her behaviour fully normal" and, hence, she needed "urgent help in a closed setting" where she would get "special education treatment to ensure schooling."
Writing recently for Brussels Journal, Thomas Landen detailed the difficulties of being a believing Christian family in modern Germany. Landen wrote that two years ago, a Baptist couple from Eastern Westphalia kept their two sons, then 9- and 8-years old, home from school on two occasions when their school had scheduled a sex-education theatre play called "Mein Körper gehört mir" (My Body Belongs to Me). The authorities took the parents to court where they were convicted. The case made its way up to the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Germany's Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, the highest court in the land, which also convicted them.
This month, Germany's Supreme Court ruled that "the religious conviction of a minority" is subordinated to "a contradictory tradition of a differently inclined majority." The court fined the parents to a fine of 80 Euros. The Court declared that "Consequently, the paternal right to raise children is restricted, in a constitutionally permissible way, by the concretization of the state's obligation to ensure a universal duty to compulsive school attendance."
In Sweden and Britain, there is growing concern among homeschooling families over government hostility to homeschooling. There are growing fears that these governments are attempting to impose similar restrictions to those of Germany.
But homeschooling advocates are hopeful that the publicity surrounding such cases as that of the Schmidts will raise an international outcry against government persecution.
Mike Donnelly of the Home School Legal Defense Fund, said, "It does seem like there has been more interest in reporting on the homeschooling issue in German in the last couple of years."
"We are hoping that as the issue becomes more reported and talked about in the mainstream press which is starting to pick it up that it will become more an issue for politicians, and lead to a change in the laws and regulations on homeschooling."
"We are hoping that through cases of the Schmidts, Roemeikes, and others that it will get the attention of lawmakers and policymakers in Germany," said Donnelly.
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