“Un-deporting” Homeschoolers: Thanks for Nothing?

So, the Obama Administration has decided not to deport the Romeike family after all. You may recall that the Romeikes are the Christian family from Germany that sought to homeschool their children in their homeland. The German government sent the equivalent of a SWAT team to “save” the Romeike children from the horrors of Christian homeschooling. The Romeike’s made their way to the United States where, reasonably it seemed at the time, they expected toleration for their “alternative lifestyle.”

No such luck. Eric Holder’s Justice Department challenged the Romeike’s claim for asylum in the U.S. The argument? “The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society.” And “teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully functioning citizen in Germany.” Apparently, subjecting your kids to the virulently anti-Christian indoctrination of government run schools in Germany (not to say on this side of the Atlantic … ) is essential to good, “tolerant” citizenship. Only by having their faith ignored, where not ridiculed, can one become a “fully functioning citizen” in secularized Germany—at least according to the Obama/Holder Justice Department.

Of course this corrosive logic would apply equally well to homeschoolers in the U.S., and perhaps charter schools in New York City. But, for now at least, Homeland Security says it will refrain from sending its own paramilitary operatives to eject the Romeike’s from our shores.

Romeike-FamilyShould the Romeike’s be grateful? Certainly, anyone who has been spared from draconian actions throwing them into the arms of the German constabulary, which is waiting to throw them in jail unless they violate the dictates of their faith by subjecting their children to secularization should be grateful. Just not to the Obama/Holder Justice Department. Residing here on sufferance, the Romeike’s have been stripped of any substantive rights in their dealings with the government. This is bad news for the Romeike’s, who now must see to it that they don’t offend the Administration, its IRS, or any other of its petty bureaucrats (including, for example, by saying the “wrong” things in the press). It also is bad news for the rights of parents, and religious parents in particular, in regard to educating their children.

By attacking the rights of homeschoolers, this Administration has succeeded in undermining, for its own future benefit, the legal status of homeschooling. According to this Administration, homeschooling isn’t worth defending in the international context. Indeed, the Administration now is “on record” (and victorious, thanks to a short-sighted Supreme Court) claiming that governments have the right to use compulsive public schooling as a tool of “socialization” in the ways of secular society. It seems, then, that whenever the foes of homeschooling decide they have the time and support to move against it, they will have precedent on their side.

Homeschoolers and their organizations were understandably up in arms when the Supreme Court refused to hear the Romeikes’ appeal of the decision revoking their asylum. Some even threatened legislative and other public action. We should be thankful for the Romeikes’ sake that such action was not necessary. But the decision to hold off deporting them seems much more a declaration of victory on the part of the Obama Administration than any meaningful compromise.

The current Administration is determined to “tame” religious Americans and take from our churches their ability to challenge governmental policies and the faulty, atomistic, self-centered logic at their heart. This will not be accomplished by aggressive action alone. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne has “refuted” the claim that the Obama Administration is hostile toward Christians (and Catholics in particular) by citing the number of federal dollars allocated to related organizations. Of course this is precisely the mantra one would expect of a supporter of Obama’s aggressive social democratic program. Those religious people and associations who cooperate, those who accept their role as tools of the federal government, helping it carry out its policies in the name of “social justice” or any other (often, on its own, quite worthy) secular goal, will be rewarded. Those who seek to undermine the “overlapping consensus” of a materialistic social democracy devoted to enabling individuals to pursue their own wants-of-the-moment at as little cost as possible (provided everyone is willing to support the government in all its endeavors) may, at best, receive tolerance. They may, if the government has not (yet) found a “compelling state interest” in overturning their traditions and prescriptive rights, continue to exist. But, increasingly, those “compelling” interests are to be found in the very extension of the logic of atomistic social democracy.

Of course, we are told, there is nothing to worry about, if we are truly “tolerant” of a society that holds us in contempt. After all, even more federal dollars will flow to Catholic organizations if we give Obama proposals their full sway. Just think how many dollars Catholic hospitals can spend on contraceptive policies and death panels under Obamacare. Yes, acceptance of such premises may require some years of public schooling.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared March 21, 2014 in Imaginative Conservative and is reprinted with permission. (Lead photo credit: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)

Bruce Frohnen


Bruce Frohnen is Professor of Law at the Ohio Northern University College of Law. He is also a senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center and author of many books including The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism, and the editor of Rethinking Rights (with Ken Grasso), and The American Republic: Primary Source. His most recent book (with the late George Carey) is Constitutional Morality and the Rise of Quasi-Law (Harvard, 2016).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Jules Ferry, the father of modern French public education,, widely imitated throughout Europe, declared its purpose to “cast the nation’s youth in the same mould and to stamp them, like the coinage, with the image of the Republic.”

    His Law of 28 March, 1882 made primary education obligatory, gratuitous and laïque

    • TheAbaum

      “cast the nation’s youth in the same mould and to stamp them, like the coinage, with the image of the Republic.”

      In other words, to make people into chattel. Despicable.

      Do you have a different channel other than the Dead and Obnoxious Frenchmen Channel?

      • ColdStanding

        The obnoxious blowhard is a commonplace. But to be an obnoxious blowhard AND quotable, only the French can do that.

        • Art Deco

          I take it you never read anything by Robert Hughes.

          • ColdStanding

            I was not attempting to advance a law, only add a little levity.

            But no, I do not know about your Robert Hughes. Is he your uncle?

            • James Kabala

              Late art critic for Time Magazine. And host for one day of 20/20!

              • Art Deco

                Scion of the Australian patriciate, vociferous atheist, and all around repulsive piece of work. What galls you is that the man has no critics in the world of arts and letters bar some of the artists he’s skewered.

                I once went looking for a critical review of a book by Alison Bechdel and discovered precisely one: it had been written gratis by Bechdel’s exasperated sister-in-law and published only in blog format. The burden of the review was that Bechdel had traded in her family’s dirty linen for personal aggrandizement, had misrepresented her family’s history, and had done so in defiance of her mother’s wishes. Not exactly aesthetic judgments, those.

                The monovox of the arts-and-letters fraternity is so severe you wonder if it would matter one whit if we had a state culture monopoly a la Soviet Russia.

            • Art Deco

              No. My uncle is at age 86 still alive and in satisfactory health. He’s a retired engineer / naval aviator, a satisfactory generic protestant, still married to the one-and-only wife he ever had, and blessed with a rasher of grandchildren and a passel of non-pathological friends. He can have plainly stated opinions about what he reads in the papers, but he’s never been paid a salary to issue sulphurous denunciations of Seward Johnson and it likely would never occur to him to think that way or talk that way.

              He does not resemble Robert Hughes in any particular. Referring to the two of them in the same sentence is obscene.

              • ColdStanding

                I’m pleased to read in your report of the salutary qualities of your esteemed uncle. Only the most determined, however, could read the intention to offend into my post. Have you never heard the expression “Bob’s your uncle”?

                But I guess it’s my bad for for stepping into the product of one of your hobby horses. Does fallen creation not proved enough conflict already for you that you have to go out looking for enemies?

    • ColdStanding

      I haven’t been keeping tally, but you’ve used that one several times now.

      It is an interesting story, though. His law was largely a response to the success the Brothers of the Christian Schools were having, no?

      • msmischief

        He can’t help its continued applicability

        • ColdStanding

          I am aging, it is helpful to be reminded that I am repeating the same stories.

        • TheAbaum

          If your only tool is a hammer, every problem is a nail-just ask Arrerio and his inability to engage an argument without trotting out Calvin’s corpse.

  • Tolerance is a form of contempt. You cannot tolerate what you do not hate.

  • “… has “refuted” the claim that the Obama Administration is hostile toward
    Christians (and Catholics in particular) by citing the number of federal
    dollars allocated to related organizations.” They give all those federal dollars BECAUSE they are hostile toward Christians. What can’t be control through laws is best controlled through bribery, which can be even more effective than laws. It’s surprisingly easy to get people to violate their conscience when enough free government money is involved.

  • poetcomic1

    “Come let us reason together.” was LBJ’s favorite Bible verse and he used it often. If you check Isaiah, the end of the verse is “…says the Lord.” i.e. LBJ put God’s words in his own mouth.

    Eric Holder giveth and Eric holder taketh away.

    • TheAbaum

      When people think of the government as an incorrupt, beneficent and omniscient god, should we be surprised when the people that populate it arrogant the Word of God for political purposes?

      • ColdStanding

        SP: arrogate not arrogant

        • poetcomic1

          ‘arrogant’ kind of works too

        • TheAbaum

          Fixed. Thanks.

  • mygeegee

    “Eric Holder’s Justice Department challenged the Romeike’s claim for asylum in the U.S. The argument? ‘The goal in Germany is for an open, pluralistic society.’ And ‘teaching tolerance to children of all backgrounds helps to develop the ability to interact as a fully
    functioning citizen in Germany.'”

    Both of those quotes were taken from a German court decision in 2006. They were only referenced by Holder to refute specific arguments made by Romeike’s brief. They are minor technical counterpoints, and aren’t meant to be any kind of thesis for the DoJ. (Here is a link to Holder’s brief: http://www.hslda.org/hs/international/Germany/RomeikeDOJMeritsBrief.pdf)

    While it’s true that you didn’t directly attribute those words to Holder, you also didn’t provide the proper context. Instead you falsely associated Holder with those quotes to advance your argument that he was on some kind of witch hunt.

    I think that’s a pretty dishonest paragraph to write for a college processor.

  • msmischief

    But nothing must interfer with the Volksgemeinschaft!

    That’s not tarring them with the Nazi brush. It was a Nazi-era law for just that purpose.

  • TheAbaum

    Apparently, the only think pluralistic Germany can’t tolerate is homeschooling.

    Holder is detritus.

    • Art Deco

      Unfortunately, the influence of the legal profession on the rest of society is so hypertrophied that the detritus matters.

      • TheAbaum

        No argument there.