May 5, 2004

Attacks on German Homeschoolers Continue

German homeschoolers continue to face harassment for homeschooling. However, because of the generosity of American homeschoolers, the fight continues.

We recently received a report from Richard Guenther, Director of the German legal defense group, Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (Schuzh).

Schuzh has many cases pending at this time. Let me mention a few that are very important for German homeschoolers. The names have been changed to protect the families.

Meyer's - The case against the Meyer family, who contested the shameful and ungodly content of the curriculum in school, was taken all the way through the German court system, losing at each level and finally at the Federal Supreme Court. Having exhausted the German court system, Schuzh has submitted the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.

In the meantime, the state has levied another charge against this family, for not complying with the mandatory school attendance laws. The new charge was struck down by the lowest court.

Stein's - The Stein family was charged and taken before a criminal court for contesting the explicit sexual content found in the school worksheets. The lowest court found in favor of the Stein's. The state appealed and the case was heard by the next highest court, where the state won the appeal. The judge ruled that these worksheets were in the acceptable range of decency and therefore the content was not against the conscience of the parents. A Schuzh attorney immediately appealed.

Goldermann's - The homeschooling Goldermann family, a Christian family, was contacted by school authorities and asked to send their children to school. The Goldermann's worked out an agreement with these authorities allowing their children to be administered a national achievement test. The children aced the test! The response of the authorities was that the children should be in school because they would set a good example for the children in school to follow. The Goldermann's politely refused. It was then discovered that the Goldermann children did not like witches. A psychiatrist was then employed to learn why, even though the answer is that it's against their Christian beliefs. As it now stands, the Goldermann's have been heavily fined and the state has placed a lien against their home. If they do not pay the fines, their home can be taken away from them. A Schuzh attorney is handling this case.

Homeschooled children are sometimes assessed to be mentally ill. If this doesn't work to remove the children from their parents, then the parents are also accused of being mentally ill.

Recently, a judge ruled that fundamentalist Christians are not protected by the constitution. No definition was given of a fundamentalist Christian. The constitution guarantees citizens freedom of religion and conscience. The courts are now ruling in school cases that we have a freedom from religion and not a freedom of religion. This is openly and unarguably against the original intent of the constitution.

Our court system is similar to the court system in America, with the Federal Supreme Court being the highest in the land. The difference in our system is that when a case is lost at a lower court, it may be appealed to a higher court, all the way to and through the Federal Supreme Court. However, this requires significant financial resources. The state can afford to continue to litigate a case even when the court decides against the state. To fight the state drives the average family to their knees financially.

State authorities continue to levy fines against families in an attempt to force them to comply with the mandatory school attendance laws. There are two kinds of fines:

1. Bussgeld - This fine may be contested by the family who can ask for a court hearing.

2. Zwangsgeld - This fine may also be contested but only to the one who issued it. If the one who issued the fine denies the family, they must pay it or else the father must go to jail. There is no recourse for the family when they receive Zwangsgeld. This fine was always reserved for extreme cases. Now we see it being used more and more often against families who cannot, because of religious and conscience reasons, comply with the mandatory school attendance laws. With this fine, the family either pays the fine, or else the father goes to jail or else they must flee the country. However, whether the family pays the fine or not, the state can immediately take action and assess a new fine. These fines are not small amounts. In the state of Bavaria, there are presently three families hit with Zwangsgeld totaling $96,000.

Schuzh normally does not charge the families they represent because of the high fees involved, which average families cannot afford.

Families hesitate to take the step to homeschool. It is only when they have exhausted all other avenues, i.e., to argue with the school authorities regarding content and methods, that they take this step. Consequently, the majority of our members are in need of legal help.

Schuzh is at a very critical point. We have accomplished much in the last 5 months, sponsoring two national homeschool conferences, one at which HSLDA's Dr. Michael Farris attended and was our guest speaker. We have two fully equipped and manned offices. We have 10 attorneys throughout Germany representing our clients. We have two cases pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

We are busy lobbying top politicians in Bavaria. We continue to draw a very friendly press, articles being printed in national newspapers and magazines with interviews aired on radio and television. One Schuzh member family has been invited to participate on a national TV talk show in June. However, our funds are no longer enough to continue our efforts. We desperately need financial support from America. If anyone has the means, we would be so thankful for your donations. You will find on our website (www.schuzh.de) a membership form that allows you to become friends of Schuzh members. Please join us. As a result of our efforts, we are gaining a very powerful voice. We must keep up the momentum. The homeschooling movement in Germany needs us and we need you.

God bless,

Richard Guenther
Director, Schulunterricht zu Hause e.V. (Schuzh)

HSLDA is asking for families to consider donating financial support for the cause of freedom in Germany. You can send donations to the Home School Foundation, earmarked for German homeschoolers. Please go to http://www.hslda.org/elink.asp?ID=1211 . We will send the donations on to Schulunterricht zu Hause to help with advising homeschoolers, negotiating with school districts, funding cases and appeals, paying fines, and defending the rights of homeschoolers in whatever way necessary.