July 23, 2013

Why are those German home-schooling parents seeking asylum in the United States?

Germany is in the European Union, which has a right to free movement, and Ireland, for example, offers a right to home-schooling. Here's email I received after yesterday's post about the case:

While not normally the type to comment on your blog posts (or anyone else's for that matter), I am somewhat confused by the attention and rallying point that the homeschooling-Germans-seeking-asylum story seems to have become for that community. While in theory there could be — somewhere in the world — a non-US citizen whose desire to meet perceived religious obligations by homeschooling could rise to the current US standard for granting asylum, the facts of this particular case don't seem to meet that standard. I currently live in Ireland, where the right of parents to homeschool their children is enshrined in the Constitution (Art. 42(2)). If the German parents' sole goal is to raise and educate their children in a homeschool friendly environment, they could easily emigrate to Ireland under the EU's right to free movement of persons and avoid the Congressional / Supreme Court challenge in the US entirely. I would assume that the Home School Legal Defense Association wants a poster case to publicize its views, but in light of the available facts, this just doesn't seem to be the most compelling case for that.
Great point. The 6th Circuit said they hadn't met the asylum standard because Germany wasn't targeting religious believers, just applying the same standard to everyone. In the United States, you don't have a constitutional right to special treatment because your desire to do something otherwise forbidden is based on religion. It's a simple equality principle.

What about all the Muslims in France who are forbidden to wear the veil in public? Would they all have a claim to asylum in the United States?

American law also includes some substantive due process ("privacy") rights about child-rearing, and these might get you to some right to home-school if you were already in the United States. It's very hard, however, to see this as a basis for asylum. If we're going to think in these terms, we might as well open the doors to everyone who wants to immigrate. We have rights that other people around the world would like to have too. Why stop anybody? I suspect that those who are championing the German home-schoolers are embracing them because they like the home-schooling cause, but it can't work like that, picking and choosing your issues.

ADDED: Why does Germany forbid home-schooling? Is it seen as important to assimilation, creating a common culture, and safeguarding against inculcating racism/anti-Semitism?

MORE: Another emailer writes, answering the question in the post title:
Perhaps because they don't want to have to flee twice.

Ireland allows home schooling with "reasonable regulation" which is inherently a matter for disagreement and can be quite unreasonable in practice.

Also, the homeschool community there is tiny and has a hard time agitating against further regulation.

Ireland has or will adopt the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) which has been used in other countries to tightly regulate the content of education (most recently in the Vatican).

The US has the freest education system on earth and is unlikely to adopt things like the CRC which treat children as permanent wards of the state.

Homeschooling in Europe is tiny and under constant attack and there are few genuinely private schools.

That's why those seeking freedom to educate might flee here.
AND: Yet another emailer says:
Because they seek ideological control over their subject populations.

The current excuse is that the "Rights of the Child" include the right to be taught the political, religious, and social views that the government wants taught.  Unsurprisingly the generic progressive world view.
He links to this speech by the HSLDA President. Excerpt:
Kimberly A. Yuracko, a professor from the prestigious Northwestern University School of Law, wrote an article for the California Law Review claiming that there are legal and constitutional limits on the ability of homeschooling parents “to teach their children idiosyncratic and illiberal beliefs and values.”...

In the May 2010 edition of the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, Catherine Ross, a law professor from George Washington Law School, published a broadside aimed at the hundreds of thousands of families homeschooling represents....

Professor Martha Albertson Fineman, from the Emory University School of Law, wrote in 2009 of her fear of parents with “oppressive, hierarchical belief systems.” She says,
Indeed, the long-term consequences for the child being home schooled
or sent to a private school cannot be overstated. The total absence of
regulation over what and how children are taught leaves the child
vulnerable to gaining a sub-par or non-existent education from which
they may never recover. Moreover, the risk that parents or private
schools unfairly impose hierarchical or oppressive beliefs on their
children is magnified by the absence of state oversight or the
application of any particular educational standards.
So what does she recommend should be done about all of us?
Private education should be banned. All of it. Private schools, religious
schools, homeschools.
Note: In the United States, the right to send your children to private schools, including private religious schools, is extremely well-established.