Update on 3/5: The family who left Germany because home schooling is not allowed in their native country will be allowed to stay in the U.S., according to a statement. “Today, a Supervisor with the Department of Homeland Security called a member of our legal team to inform us that the Romeike family has been granted ‘indefinite deferred status.’ This means that the Romeikes can stay in the United States permanently (unless they are convicted of a crime, etc.)”

(RNS) The Supreme Court on Monday (March 3) declined to hear an appeal from a family seeking asylum in the United States because home schooling is not allowed in their native Germany.

home school

The Romeike family studies around a table at home. Photo courtesy Home School Legal Defense Association

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The case involves Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, Christians who believe German schools would have a bad influence on their six children. The family’s case became a rallying point for many American Christians.

As is their custom, the justices on the high court declined to give a reason for not hearing the case.

Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association that represents the family, said the group would pursue legislation in Congress to allow the family to stay. But the Romeikes will likely face deportation.

“The court’s decision is not a decision on the merits of the case — however, it was the last judicial hope for the family,” Farris said in a statement. “Even now, we have been working with supportive members of Congress to introduce legislation that could help the Romeikes and others who flee persecution.”

HSLDA helped the Romeikes leave Germany in 2008 after they were threatened with jail time and losing custody of their children. The Romeikes are evangelical Christians, and say they should be allowed to keep their children home to teach them Christian values. 

“In Germany there is basically religious freedom, but it ends at least with teaching the children,” Uwe Romeike (pictured here teaching his son) says in a video produced by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Christian organization providing the family’s legal support. Photo courtesy Home School Legal Defense Association

“In Germany there is basically religious freedom, but it ends at least with teaching the children,” Uwe Romeike (pictured here teaching his son) says in a video produced by the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Christian organization providing the family’s legal support. Photo courtesy Home School Legal Defense Association

This image is available for Web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

An immigration judge in Tennessee granted the Romeikes’ bid in 2010, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling in 2012, arguing that religious home-schoolers don’t face any special threats.

The family lost their appeal in federal court in May 2013. The U.S. grants safe haven to people who have a well-founded fear of persecution, but not necessarily to those under governments with laws that differ from those in the U.S., Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote in the court’s decision.

“The German authorities have not singled out the Romeikes in particular or homeschoolers in general for persecution,” Sutton wrote.

In August 2013, the White House declined to comment on the case in response to an online petition.

In other actions, the high court agreed to hear the case of an Arkansas prisoner who was denied the right to wear a beard. The inmate, Gregory H. Holt, says his Muslim faith requires him to wear facial hair, but prison officials cite safety, hygiene and security concerns.

A federal appeals court rejected Holt’s case last summer, saying prison officials had made reasonable accommodations under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which compels the government to use the least restrictive means to limit religious freedom.  The court is likely to hear Holt’s case next fall.



  1. As someone who has homeschooled for more than a decade (although not currently), I can see where this is such an important issue, particularly for someone of faith. I know other countries don’t allow it, however, including Australia, I believe. I’m not sure of the answer, but I wonder whether this family has considered other countries they might move to — or they could always become missionaries!

  2. What an abuse of our Asylum laws!

    Asylum is for people with a well-founded fear of persecution and personal threats if the person is deported. It is reserved for people who have to worry about actual harm coming to them if they are returned to their country.

    Typical Evangelical attitude. They won’t treat me like someone special and above the law, so I am being persecuted.

  3. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    According to the information in this article the parents were threatened in Germany with jail time and losing custody of their children for doing what they are convinced is best for them educationally and morally.
    Now our educational bureaucracy and our courts may consider this “no big deal” but in my book as a parent and grandparent such threats made by government are virtual acts of terror and certainly qualify in the minds of most loving parents’ minds as “well-founded fear of persecution.”
    But, then again, I know from teaching in public schools for almost 40 years that today the attitude of the education bureaucracy and teacher’s unions has become that they own our children.
    And parents??? They are just a pain and a bother (that is why many schools no longer encourage PTAs to exist.)
    Even huge success outside the education establishment is targeted for destruction. I just read how the uber-liberal mayor of NY is determined to get rid of all that city’s charter schools no matter how successful they have been.

    • They were threatened with fines and whatnot for refusing to send their children to school of any type. (Read the official transcript of the appeal linked in the article) It is not the same as persecution and threats based on one’s characteristics or beliefs. Having an issue with your country’s laws is not enough for asylum in this case according to the judge here.

      The laws the parents disobeyed in Germany were of general application. It did not target people on the basis of religious belief either in intent or effect. The law would apply to any parents who refused to send their children to school irregardless of religious or political beliefs.

      The only reason I am not completely annoyed at this frivolous use of Asylum laws is the fact that there are no visa limits on Asylum seekers. Nobody in a real fear of imminent harm from deportation lost a chance at going through CIS because of the Romeikes

    • @Deacon

      I imagine this family could immigrate to the United States. They simply cannot be given asylum here. Their case does not warrant it. Agree or not, German laws are determined by Germans. Apparently, they feel that withholding a standard education from children is as wrong as we feel withholding standard medical treatment from them is. In either case, what particular parents believe is immaterial.

      • It kind of helps that he is from a country with major commercial ties to the US. There is a German business infrastructure in place in the US which could mean companies which could sponsor employment visas. There are limits on these visas and long wait times and none of it guarantees permanent residency, unlike Asylum.

        Of course the big question is, how have they been supporting themselves in the US for so many years. He was not legally authorized to work while the asylum status was being considered.

  4. ‘Homeschooling’ isn’t really school. Getting indoctrinated into your parent’s view of the world guarantees parochialism, insularity and obedience training.

    But the vast libraries of the internet are providing the corrective. Parents will have to learn to let go sooner.

    “Google it” has become the new method of learning. Children have no problem navigating it. We should find it incredibly encouraging that they are reading and writing and sharing what interests them so much. Even on social media.

    Schools and libraries must become centers of further exploration, study and free discussion. The whole system is outdated.

    Google and Wikipedia are teaching kids everything they want to know.
    We are at the very beginning of a new Enlightenment.
    It is incredibly encouraging and exciting.

    • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

      Sad, most of the comments here read like the attitude of the education bureaucracy– a trust in an all powerful government education establishment and thus a deep fear of parents and charter schools.
      When I started teaching almost 40 years ago there were strong, broadly inclusive parents’ organizations. Now you rarely see parent involvement. The excuse given is that it is all parent’s fault they aren’t involved–they aren’t interested goes the establishment canard. (and behind their backs frequently referring to parents as “stupid.” ) In fact a frequently used line is: “If you think the kid is stupid–wait until you meet the parent.”
      But average parents I have talked to are interested. It is just that they have been driven away by activists of various types as well as educators who constantly putting down them and their values and their interests.

      • Its more like the attitude of the immigration bureaucracy. The same one the overwhelming majority of conservatives want to enforce their rules to the letter (provided the immigrants are brown-skinned).

        Asylum is a difficult method of permanent residency to pull off. The burden is entirely on the asylum seeker to convince immigration that their condition warrants such status. I see what the family did as an abuse of the rules. Not liking a law which applies to all people is not the same as persecution.

        As for homeschooling, I only trust it when it is sanely regulated by the state to ensure at least a minimum level of competence and basic standards. If you are going to forgo compulsory education standards, the burden is on you to assure the state that you can be trusted to do so.

  5. Charles Freeman

    The goals of home schooling appear to be the inculcation of religious dogma along with academic information devoid of any conflict with religious tenets or myths. It appears that this family wanted to use the U. S. to further its religious objectives, after being turned down by Germany. I’m glad they will be on their way somewhere else. Now, we need to get rid of virtually all home schooling in the U. S. since it derives almost entirely from the same motivations.

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