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Homeschoolers Take Their Case to Human Rights Court

June 28, 2006

German Supreme Court Turns Down Appeal by Christian Parents

Karlsruhe, June 27 (idea) – German homeschooling parents who face fines or jail sentences are prepared to take their cause to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The German Constitutional Court (Supreme Court) in Karlsruhe recently turned down an appeal by Christian parents. According to the justices they are obliged to send their children to state registered schools.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany, even if parents object to institutional education for religious reasons. Many Christian, however, are defying legal requirements. Some have been fined or incarcerated, when they refused to pay the fines. It is estimated that at least 1.000 children in Germany are educated by their parents.

Germany takes a tougher line against homeschooling than other European democracies. France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland and Austria also require children to receive school education, but leave the form of education up to the parents.

The constitutional appeal was launched by Sigrid and Michael Bauer, members of the Evangelical-reformed Church in Giessen, 50 miles north of Frankfurt. The Bauers teach five of their eight children at home.

They argue that they want to bring up their children according to the Bible and shield them against negative influences. According to the Bauers sex education and the teaching of evolution undermine the Christian upbringing of their children.

The Bauers were fined US-Dollars 650 and 800 respectively by lower courts. The Constitutional Court refused to accept their appeal on the grounds that compulsory school education “serves the legitimate cause of enforcing the state’s educational mandate”. The German constitution did not include the right to exempt children from religious expressions other than their own.

The parents, however, feel that their human rights are being violated, as Sigrid Bauer explained to the evangelical news agency “idea”. According to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights state authorities must uphold the parental right to religious instruction of their children.

The German homeschooling association SchuzH argues that sex education in schools is indoctrinating and does not respect the parents’ right to educate their children. German courts of law had never considered how much the curricula interfere with parental religious education.

German homeschoolers cannot expect support from the Christian Democratic Parties in the federal Parliament. Their spokesman for internal affairs, Hans-Peter Uhl, and the deputy Ralf Goebel welcomed the decision by the Constitutional Court.

It had sent out a positive signal for the “overwhelming majority of religiously minded parents in our country, who accept the educational mandate of the state and are happy to send their children to state schools”.

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Evangelical news agency idea. Wolfgang Polzer
Tel: +49-6441-915102, Fax: +49-6441-915118
E-Mail: Wolfgang.Polzer@idea.de - Internet: www.idea.de
Postal address: idea, PO Box 1820, 35528 Wetzlar, Germany