Politics & Policy

The Romeike Reprieve

Hannelore Romeike and daugher Damaris
The Obama administration still denies refugee status to the German homeschooling family.


For now, the Romeikes get to stay in America. Homeschoolers Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled their native Germany in 2008 and brought their five children to the U.S. They have since had a sixth child.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal to stay here. It seemed the Obama administration would succeed in its efforts to have this devout Christian family deported. But at the eleventh hour, the Department of Homeland Security relented. The family has been granted an indefinite stay of the deportation order.

This is a matter of grave concern not only to the family involved and their many friends but to us all. The position taken by the Obama administration in court documents is that the Romeikes cannot claim refugee status and appeal for asylum because they were not truly being persecuted in Germany. The Obama administration does not see homeschooling for reasons of conscience as a legitimate expression of our First Amendment rights to the “free exercise of religion.”

#ad#And so the Obama administration still denies refugee status to the Romeike family. In so doing, it places at grave risk the fundamental freedoms of millions of American citizens who homeschool their own children. This Romeike reprieve, answer to prayer that it is, does not constitute a repudiation of the Obama administration’s deeply troubling position.

The Romeikes fled a Federal Republic of Germany that in many ways has been a model modern democracy. The Germans have admirably turned away from their troubled past and have become a mainstay of constitutional government and human rights in Europe. In 2009, Germany’s ambassador to the United States, Klaus Scharioth, expressed his government’s thanks to the U.S. for sending some 60 million soldiers to his country over a period of nearly half a century. They were stationed in Germany to protect the liberties of former enemies. The ambassador’s Heritage Foundation audience was deeply moved by his eloquent message. (And I am personally indebted to the humanity of a German U-boat skipper who, in 1943, spared my father’s life and the lives of his shipmates after sinking their freighter.)

Nonetheless, we can in all friendship appeal to the German government to change its policy of persecuting Christian homeschoolers. German friends have explained that they must assure the continuation of their democracy and cannot allow individual families to withdraw their children from state schools. We must be sympathetic but firm on this point: Germany’s failure to recognize the rights of parents to “train up their children in the way they should go” is a major reason why Germany succumbed first to Bismarck’s statism in the 1860s, then to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s militarism in the first decade of the 20th century, and finally, and most tragically, to the Hitler Nazi nightmare in the 1930s and ’40s.

As Americans, we can appeal to the ringing declaration of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters (1925): “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Ironically, Pierce was a case begun because Oregon voters had been whipped up into an anti-German, anti-alien frenzy by the Ku Klux Klan, among others. They approved a state ballot initiative that outlawed all private schools — including home schools.

This, not incidentally, is what liberal advocates here seek to do with the so-called Common Core education standards. They want to impose a “general power of the State to standardize its children.” This is one of the main reasons we should oppose the initiative rightly called Obamacore.

We must remain vigilant. We remember how five-year-old Elián González was snatched in a pre-dawn raid in April 2000. Wearing combat boots and vests, heavily armed federal immigration agents burst into the González family’s modest home in the Little Havana section of Miami. They grabbed the terrified child at gunpoint. That infamous act will be a part of the legacy of the Clinton administration. Today, the 22-year-old Elián spouts Communist slogans, the result of a decade of indoctrination in Castro’s imprisoned Cuba.

Today, we can thank God for the deliverance of the dear Romeike family.

— Robert Morrison is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

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