Ken Blackwell is Senior Fellow, Family Empowerment, and Robert Morrison is Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Patriot Post on April 18, 2013.
The members of the Romeike (roh-MIKE-uh) family are refugees from Germany. They came here in 2008 and sought asylum. They claimed they were being persecuted in Germany. Father Uwe and his wife Hannelore have documented what happened in their native land. Their story was corroborated in an important law review article by Miki Kawashima published in Boston.
Imagine this scene: In October 2006, "German police officers entered the Romeike home without a written court order, forcibly removing the Romeike children, and escorted them to a public school." German authorities laid heavy fines -- upwards of $10,000 -- on the Romeikes. They threatened to take the children away. The Romeikes fled to America, this home of freedom.
If it is hard for us to imagine armed federal agents breaking into our homes in the pre-dawn hours to snatch our children at gunpoint, then we need to remember this video.
Little Elian Gonzalez was grabbed at gunpoint on Easter Sunday morning in 2000. He was in the arms of his loving Cuban-American family, in Miami's Little Havana. His mother had died trying to get here in a leaking boat, in shark-infested waters. Her dying wish was for her son to live in freedom.
Bill Clinton and Janet Reno had other ideas. Elian needed to be reunited with his non-custodial father, the Clintons said. His father said he wanted Elian back, but no parent speaks to media in Cuba's dictatorship without Castro's "guidance." Elian today is very happy, they tell us, having been raised in Cuba as an atheist and a member of Castro's youth red brigades.
We need to be fair and charitable to our staunch allies in modern Germany. Ambassador to the U.S. Klaus Sharioth eloquently told a Heritage Foundation audience in 2009 that Germany was grateful for the 60,000,000 young Americans who had defended his country's freedom from 1945 to 1990.
It was a moving and powerful statement. When can you ever recall America being thanked? The Germany of the Federal Republic is nothing like Hitler Germany. They deserve to be treated as dear friends and a model of democracy in many ways.
Even so, we should firmly tell the Germans: This persecution of Christians is how Germany went wrong. This is why you got first an Iron Chancellor in Otto von Bismarck, then a Kaiser bent on world power, and finally how, tragically, you fell prey to an evil Furer!
The position of the Obama administration is that the right to home school is not part of the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom in our Constitution. The Romeikes are therefore not being denied anything fundamental. Like Bill Clinton before him, President Obama wants the expel the freedom-seekers.
The Obama administration cannot take this position without riding roughshod over well-established U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence.
"The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excluded any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right and the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)
"It is cardinal with us that the custody, care, and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the State can neither supply nor hinder." Prince v. Massachusetts, 321 U.S. 166 (1944)
"This case involves the fundamental interest of parents, as contrasted with that of the state, to guide the religious future and education of their children. The history and culture of Western civilization reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children. This primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring tradition." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 232 (1972).
Will the Romeikes be the next Gonzalezes? Will armed federal agents storm their little Tennessee home and forcibly deport them? Did Bill or Hillary Clinton or Janet Reno ever pay a price for their storm trooper tactics?
The Romeikes fight is our fight, too! Support them now by contacting www.hslda.org/romeike. We must recognize that home schoolers defend religious freedom for all of us -- whether we home school our children or not. If they can be crushed, we all will see parents' rights and First Amendment rights hollowed out.