Mom, dad now seek help from human rights tribunal
Members of a German homeschooling family who fled to Austria, where the activity remains legal, have moved again – this time to Canada – to escape continuing government actions that now are the subject of a protest lodged at the European Court of Human Rights.
The case of Andreas and Katharina Plett is being addressed by Joel Thornton, chief of the International Human Rights Group, who alleges Germany is violating articles 8, 9, 10, 14, and 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights with its persecution of homeschooling families.
The Paderborn family is among several in Germany who have challenged the nation’s Nazi-era ban on parents teaching their children at home. Thornton told WND that in the Pletts’ case, one of the government maneuvers gave the Youth Welfare Office the authority to determine where the Pletts’ two youngest children live .
According to a Brussels Journal report at the time, a plain-clothes policewoman rang the Pletts’ doorbell early one day, and when Katharina Plett opened the door, a team of officers who had concealed themselves forced their way in.
Katharina was able to notify her husband by telephone since he and the children were not at home, and instead of returning, they traveled directly to Austria and set up a residence.
However, German authorities continue to try to impose their requirements on the family, since it still owns property in Germany, and the Pletts now are challenging not only the authority to decide where the children will live but the other decisions in their case as well.
“About a month ago the family fled to Canada to be together without fear of government officials taking their children,” Thornton told WND.
“Though the court has been unwilling to uphold international law in regards to parents’ rights in educational matters, it is our hope that the court will look at the number of families continuing to have problems and decide to take the initiative to enforce the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights that are currently being violated by the German courts,” Thornton said.
The previous decision came in the now-infamous Konrad case in which the same court concluded Germany’s ban on homeschooling – in place since the Nazis reigned – does not violate the convention’s religious rights provision. The court ruled it was important for the nation to avoid parallel societies created by religious groups.
The new case raises that issue but several others as well.
The complaint, filed Friday, says, “The Plett family has suffered the deprivation of their rights guaranteed under Article 8 of the Convention in that respect for their private and family life has been violated without demonstrated necessity for national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, the prevention of disorder or crime, the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
It also alleges violations of Article 9, contending their “religious convictions” have been violated, and Article 10 violations involving “freedom of expression, particularly the freedom to impart information and ideas without interference by public authorities.”
Further, the court action alleges Germany is discriminating against the family based on their religious convictions and is violating Protocol 1, Article 2, which states that “in the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religions and philosophical convictions.”
The appeals says, “The Plett family is asking this court to overturn the decision of all the German courts and declare that the state took improper custody of their children while exercising their rights. … The Plett family asks this court to clarify that the rights guaranteed under Articles 8, 9, 10 and 14 are not subject to governmental intervention without clear and convincing evidence that homeschooling their children would rise to the level of violating the interferences regulated by the Convention. That is not the case here.”
The action also seeks a cancellation of all fines imposed by Germany and the recovery of all costs.
Thornton told WND the children continue to live with the family only because the state Youth Welfare Office never has exercised its authority to determine where they are required to live. Such situations are not unusual in Germany. However, they create major complications for families doing any traveling.
The Pletts have their roots in Germany but had been living in Russia before returning. They decided to homeschool after the parents “perceived a negative influence of the public school onto their children.”
In 2005, German authorities ordered decisions about the children’s residence given to the Youth Welfare Office without a hearing. The result was the family’s sudden move to Austria. Their further move came after Germany continued to try to exercise control of the family even while living in Austria.
In 2006, the Strasbourg, France-based court ruled in the Konrad case. In that dispute, Fritz and Marianna Konrad, who argued Germany’s compulsory school attendance endangered their children’s religious upbringing and promoted teaching inconsistent with the family’s Christian faith, were told they did not have a case.
The court said the Konrads belong to a “Christian community which is strongly attached to the Bible” and rejected public schooling because of the explicit sexual indoctrination programs the courses included.
The German court already had ruled that the parental “wish” to have their children grow up in a home without such influences “could not take priority over compulsory school attendance.” The decision also said the parents do not have an “exclusive” right to lead their children’s education.
“The parents’ right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience,” the decision said. “Not only the acquisition of knowledge, but also the integration into and first experience with society are important goals in primary school education. The German courts found that those objectives cannot be equally met by home education even if it allowed children to acquire the same standard of knowledge as provided for by primary school education.”
A website for the Practical Homeschool Magazine noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools, and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The Youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
The sentences for Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek came in Germany’s equivalent of a district court in the state of Hesse, according to a staff attorney for the Home School Legal Defense Association. The group, the premier homeschooling advocacy organization in the world, has been monitoring and helping in the Dudeks’ case since before a federal prosecutor announced his intention more than a year ago to see the parents behind bars.
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, has commented on the issue on a blog, noting the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
As WND reported, Drautz said schools teach socialization, and that is important, as evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case wrote objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “… You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.