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April 24, 2013

Romeike Update: Is that tolerance?

Yesterday, surrounded by friends and supporters, the Romeike family sat silent in the courtroom before the three-judge panel that will decide whether or not the family can remain in the United States to homeschool their children. The six wooden benches in the small courtroom quickly filled up with homeschooling families—some with children finishing their schoolwork for the day—and several more stood in the back during the 38-minute hearing.

HSLDA Chairman Mike Farris opened the hearing and was quickly peppered by questions by the panel. The judges seemed skeptical as to whether Germany specifically targets homeschoolers. At one point, a judge asked whether Germany persecutes homeschoolers if it permits parents to teach their children at the end of the day, after the child has attended a government school.

In reply, Farris quoted published decisions from German courts, which explained that the ban on homeschooling exists to prevent the development and spread of religious or philosophically-motivated “parallel societies,” and which concluded that it was dangerous for a child to be taught by their mother.

When asked about parallel societies, Justice Department attorney Walter Buchinni admitted he did not know what the term meant, but claimed HSLDA was taking the point out of context. Buchinni also admitted that, even if the Justice Department wins the case, he did not know whether the family would be forcibly deported or whether they would be allowed to remain in the United States.

During the final rebuttal, Farris was told that there is no clear anti-Christian bias and that one reason for Germany’s strict public education laws is to teach tolerance. “If that’s tolerance,” Farris replied, “it’s a tolerance unknown in a free society.”

After the case ended, the Romeikes and their supporters filed out of the courtroom and gathered outside the building. Farris cautioned the supporters that there was no accurate way to predict the judges’ decisions solely based on the questions they asked. “I remember arguing a case before a California court in 2008 and being convinced that we had lost,” he said. “We ended up winning unanimously. So I know God can intervene.”

“The support from homeschoolers yesterday was incredible in two ways,” Farris observed. “First, the court room was packed, and that was absolutely wonderful and clearly made an impact. Second, I know there were thousands upon thousands of homeschoolers who were actively praying on a continual basis and during the actual hearing, and the impact of the prayer was real.”

He also said that HSLDA will continue to intervene for the Romeikes if the panel returns an unfavorable decision, including a potential appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

In the news:

Homeschooling Family Fights Deportation Back to Germany (Aol.On Entertainment)—April 23, 2013

Judges question homeschool family’s request for asylum (Christian Examiner)—April 23, 2103

Federal appeals court weighs asylum bid from German home-schoolers living in Tennessee (Washington Post/AP)—April 23, 2013

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Let Them Stay