“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.

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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).

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