In the book The Culture of Disbelief (Harper Collins, © 1993) Stephen L. Carter says, “The separation of church and state should prohibit the use of the apparatus of government to coerce religious belief, but it must not be made a metaphor for government pressure not to be religious.” (p. 189) Few American citizens would have disputed this statement through most of the history of the USA, but in recent years, there have been numerous court cases which appear to assert precisely the opposite. Pressure from secular thinkers to forbid children to gather for Bible study and prayer on school property outside of school hours, is one example. Demands to remove crosses or displays of the Ten Commandments from public locations are reported with increasing frequency.
Christian parents across the country have asserted the principle that government power must not be used to lead or compel citizens to reject religion by expressing their concerns about a variety of initiatives in the realm of education which appear to do exactly that. Sex education, science education, even history education, have come under fire from Christian parents who feel that federal pressure and the content of the so-called “Core Curriculum” are intended to lead children down social and political paths in complete opposition to Christian teaching. Parental efforts to protect their children from philosophies and values considered to be sinful or at least destructive of the parental obligation to bring up their children in the faith have taken the form of activism in local school boards, political action at local, state and federal levels, and in many cases, homeschooling.
Parents in the US give themselves to homeschooling at considerable cost. Not only must they bear the burden of purchasing all the books and materials required for the children’s education, but one or both parents give up considerable personal freedom as well as professional advancement because they consider that an education for their children compatible with Christian teaching is more important than their own personal goals. They do exactly what Jesus taught: deny self, serve others, and put Christ first. Homeschooling is now so widespread in the USA that homeschoolers are able to collaborate on projects such as field trips, sports, and social activities, thereby avoiding one of the early criticisms of homeschooling – that a child’s social development would be impaired.
Parents who homeschool because they want their children shielded from un-Christian or even anti-Christian teaching in the public schools are exercising the right and obligation of parents to choose the environment and content of their children’s upbringing. More fundamentally, parents who homeschool are exercising a right guaranteed by the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The USA is a signatory to this UN Declaration, and no less a personage than Eleanor Roosevelt was involved in the writing of this document. Article 26, section 3 of the Declaration says, “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Stephen Carter, in The Culture of Disbelief says further, “no nation that strips away the right of parents to raise their children in their religion is worthy of allegiance.”
The present Attorney General of the United States, Eric Holder, appears not to agree that parents have this right.
In 2008, the Romeike family fled Germany and filed for asylum in the USA, because the German government would not permit them to homeschool their children. German law forbidding homeschooling goes back to the Nazi era. It prohibits any education which has the effect of creating parallel social communities, in other words, it prohibits Christians from shielding their children from being taught the state’s values and morals which are in contradiction with Christian teaching. The Romeike’s came to the USA, because they want what many Christian parents in the USA want. They want to teach their children about sex and families and science and history from a Christian perspective in obedience to their conviction that God has given Christian parents the responsibility to pass their faith on to the next generation. They believe, as many parents in the US believe, that government educational curriculum content is a corrupting influence on their children. German government has a reputation for arresting parents, taking children to public schools under police escort, and even removing custody of the children from their parents. Americans are appalled to hear of any government behaving this way, and Americans believe the a parent’s right to control the education and upbringing of a child is not only a universal parental right, but it is also an individual citizen right protected by our Consittution.
Attorney General Eric Holder disagrees. According to him, German law does not single out the Romeike’s for oppression; German law oppresses all parents equally. Therefore, Germany is not denying a fundamental human right.
The Romeike’s were granted asylum by a court in Tennessee after they first arrived. The Department of Justice has disputed and appealed. Most recently, asylum was denied by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Attorneys for the family plan to take their appeal to the Supreme Court, if necessary.
Parents and all freedom-loving citizens in the USA need to pay close attention to this case. Pray for the family and the attorneys representing them. Pray also for yourselves and your families. If the DOJ can successfully deny asylum to this family on the ground that universal denial of a universal human right is not oppressive, then what human rights might they attempt to deny to American citizens? Will families in the US be universally denied the right to homeschool their children? Would such an act be viewed as acceptable as long as nobody was individually targeted?
Secular thinking is becoming extremely aggressive under the guise of speaking for all citizens. It is expressed in a sense that religion ought not to be seen or heard in public. It is further expressed in a sense that children must learn the secular way of thinking, regardless of their parents’ convictions. Pray for our country, and pray for the Romeike’s. Live your faithful Christian testimony. Our rights derive from God himself, and it is to him that we must raise our petition for protection, while putting feet on our prayers and doing what we can to stop the onslaught against individual human rights in the USA.
Links for more information:
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml#a26
The story of the Romeike’s http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1968099,00.html