NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A couple who fled Germany with their five children over fears they would lose custody for not sending them to school has asked a federal appeals court to grant them asylum in the U.S.
Uwe and Hannelore Romeike (roh-MEYE-kee) claim in court documents that German schools are anti-Christian and the couple believe God wants them to teach their children at home.
Germany's government requires students to attend a state-approved school, and parents who violate the law can face fines, jail and possible custody loss.
The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided this week to hear oral arguments in April. The court will hear two competing pictures of the parents.
In the view of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which represents the parents, the Romeikes have been persecuted by the German government for exercising their right to direct their children's education, like many parents do in the U.S.
The U.S. government, however, believes the Romeikes' case does not rise to the level of persecution, and says they are not being singled out for their religious beliefs.
What the Romeikes did and what happened to them is not in dispute.
According to court documents, the Romeikes took their three oldest children out of school in September 2006 because they felt the school was turning the children against the family's Christian values. After a series of visits and letters by officials, police came to the house the next month and drove the children to school. Hannelore Romeike went to the school at recess and took them back home.
Police came three days later, but members of the family's home schooling support group were there protesting and police left. Next the government began issuing fines, which eventually totaled about 7,000 euros, or more than $9,000.
The Romeikes decided to leave the country after Germany's highest appellate court ruled in November 2007 in an unrelated case that, in severe situations, social services officials could remove children from their parents.
In 2008, they moved from Bissingen an der Teck in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg to Morristown in eastern Tennessee, and applied for asylum.
The U.S. government said in court documents the Romeikes did not belong to any particular Christian denomination and described the parents' objections to the government-approved schools as vague. Continued...