The Washington Times
January 28, 2005

Washington Times Op-ed – Homeschooling Freedom Threatened in Germany

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

The Second Inaugural address was a clarion call for freedom. President Bush said, "We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right." The President went on to say, "There is no justice without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human liberty."

America's own history is studded with examples of people seeking freedom. Whether it was an internal struggle over civil rights or the inward migration of people fleeing from tyranny, America has shown itself to be a country which takes human rights and human liberty seriously and will strive over time to expand freedom. President Bush has crystallized this uniquely American view.

Perhaps a less well known struggle for freedom came in 1983 in Nebraska. Six homeschool families defied the compulsory attendance law and kept their children from public school. Nebraska authorities promptly threw the fathers in jail. The only ‘crime' was that these families dared to educate their own children outside the public school system. The fathers were eventually freed after a lengthy legal process and three months in jail. The same negative attitudes towards homeschool parents persisted across almost all 50 states in 1983. Due to the dedication of many homeschool pioneers, however, who demonstrated the academic success of homeschooling and argued that parents had a fundamental right to raise the children entrusted to them, the homeschool laws across the country slowly changed to recognize a parent's fundamental right to homeschool.

American homeschoolers have been largely freed from the overt oppression they experienced at the hands of the government but burdens remain that are waiting to be resolved in the 21st century.

Unfortunately, in most foreign countries, homeschoolers are not experiencing the blessings of liberty. Even some countries, which are recognized as Western democracies, have taken steps to oppress homeschoolers.

The latest example comes from Germany. In Paderborn County seven German Christian families wish to remove their children from the government school system and give them a Christian education at home. The government schools in Germany are forcing their children to accept doctrines which fundamentally conflict with the basic tenants of the Christian religion. Shouldn't these seven German families have the freedom to educate their own children? The answer from the German government is no. A letter from the German Embassy could not be clearer. It reads, in part, "The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole."

In the German government's own words they say that they will not tolerate families who want to live by their religious tenants in peace or who espouse a Christian world view. According to the German government, the only route for Christian homeschool families is to be forcibly integrated into the majority population. Minority rights are not being respected in Germany. Moreover, this statement is uncomfortably close to the attitudes of some of the world's worse dictators. In response to the past actions of the German government some German homeschoolers have fled the country. Others have chosen to stay in Germany. Taking the German government at their word, it appears that this country is returning to the views of the past. It's an ugly history that few want to see repeated.

There is great cost in standing up for freedom and liberty. Americans have been willing to pay the price for freedom and American homeschoolers have felt the sting of state officials driven to control and oppress. Because American homeschoolers have recently won their fight for freedom many have been willing to help other homeschool families around the globe.

The Czech Republic removed restrictions on homeschooling in 2002 because of the letters and calls from American homeschoolers. In 2003 it was the same story in Hungary and Romania.

We know that freedom comes at a price and believe that America, with God's blessing, is the best hope for freedom and liberty in the world today.

As President Bush said, "When you stand for liberty, we will stand with you."

American homeschoolers echo this statement and stand for liberty with homeschool families around the world.