On these pages, I have written about the plight of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, whose children, aged 7 to 14, were taken forcibly from their home in Darmstadt, Germany, last August by a SWAT team of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their morning home school classes. The children were taken into custody because their parents insisted on the children being homeschooled. Following a court hearing, the Wunderlich children were returned to their parents after the parents promised that they would send their children back to a government school. At that time, I urged my readers to express their opposition to the heavy-handed tactics of German authorities. On November 21, 2013, I wrote to the German Ambassador to Washington, D.C., Peter Ammon. In my letter, I wrote the following in pertinent part:
I am deeply concerned about the plight of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich of Darmstadt. Mr. and Mrs. Wunderlich are Christian believers who sought to home school their four children, aged 7 to 14. Last August, the children were taken forcibly from their home early one morning by a battalion of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their home school classes. Judge Koenig of the Darmstadt family court authorized the seizure of the children finding that seizure was proper because the children had “adopted the parents’ opinions’ regarding homeschooling and that no cooperation could be expected” from either the parents or the children. After three weeks, the children were returned to the parents, but only on the condition that they enroll in a government school. The family has now sought to emigrate from Germany to another country where homeschooling is legal. However, their right of free movement has been curtailed until, at least, a December court hearing. For many Christian Americans, homeschooling is an important religious liberty issue, and reflects a fundamental human right of parents to teach their children what they believe. As your government is aware, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article 26(3) states that parents have a “prior right” over the government to choose their children’s education. I remind you that although Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the government schools, this fundamental human right has been infringed with regard to the Wunderlich family and others who are similarly situated. We urge your government remedy the violation of Germany’s human rights commitments to the Wunderlich family. I look forward to hearing from you.
I recently received a response to my letter from Karlfried Bergner, Minister of Communications and Culture at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., in which he wrote the following:
Dear Mr. Avramovich,
Thank you very much for your letter to Ambassador Ammon, dated November 21, expressing your concerns about the Wunderlich family’s case. Please allow me to elaborate on the German views and positions regarding homeschooling. Mandatory school attendance ensures a high standard of learning for all children. It protects children against social discrimination and isolation, contributes to integration, and fosters dialogue within society. In 2006, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the German requirement to attend school is not a violation of human rights and that EU member states have the right to regulate their individual educational systems. The Court noted that the German authorities and courts had carefully reasoned their decisions and mainly stressed the fact that not only the acquisition of knowledge but also social integration and interaction with other children are important goals in primary school education. The German courts found that those objectives cannot likewise be met through home-schooling even if children are thus able to acquire the same knowledge level as provided for by primary school education. The ECHR accepted this assumption as correct and consistent with the prerogative which the Contracting States’ (sic) enjoy in setting up and interpreting rules for their educational system. That notwithstanding, German parents still have a wide range of educational options for their children. They may choose between public, private, and religious schools, including those with alternative curricula such as the Waldorf or Montessori schools. Beyond school attendance on weekdays, they are furthermore at liberty to provide their children with any additional private or family education on weekends. Sincerely yours,
In my next blog, I will share my response to Mr. Bergner. Please continue to pray for the Wunderlich family that they will be “allowed” to leave Germany, where their fundamental right to teach their children as they see fit is curtailed.