European Court of Human Rights rules in favor of Germany
There are at least 40 cases related to homeschooling in the courts in Germany as parents fight for their right to educate their children according to their values, religious convictions and in the best educational and safety interests of their children. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany and the courts have consistently ruled in favor of the state. Homeschool families are subject to heavy fines, police escorts to school and eventual loss of custody of their children. Many have fled out of the country, but for those who remain within the European Union, the decision of the German court is binding even across international borders. Eight cases have been appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. Unfortunately, given the structure of this court, cases can sit for years before the court even rules whether or not to hear the case. This is the case for several homeschooling cases, but yesterday an important precedent was set for how these cases will be handled by this court. The European Court has affirmed that the interests of the state in the education of the child supersede that of the parent. From LifeSite (emphasis mine):
BRUSSELS, September 27, 2006 ( European Court of Human Rights gave another setback to German homeschoolers by affirming that the interests of the State trump the rights of parents to educate their children. Yesterday, the Court denied a request from the parents of Joshua and Rebekka Konrad to rule Germany's ban on homeschooling violates their human rights as parents to educate their own children under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Fritz and Marianna Konrad filed the human rights complaint in November 2003 on behalf of their children arguing that Germany's compulsory school attendance severely endangers their children's religious upbringing, and promotes teaching inconsistent with their Christian faith, especially the State's mandate of sexual education.

The Konrads had appealed under Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention which states, "No person shall be denied the right to education. 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 religious and philosophical convictions."

However, the Court decided in favor of Germany, stating that "Parents may not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of their convictions" and adding that the right to education in Article 2 "by its very nature calls for regulation by the State."

Although the Court admitted that "it cannot be formally said that the applicant parents are seeking to impose their religious convictions against their children's will,"the Court upheld the findings of the German Administrative Courts that "the applicant children were unable to foresee the consequences of their parents' decision for home education because of their young age."

The Court also agreed with the finding of German Administrative courts that "Schools represented society, and it was in the children's interest to become part of that society. The parents' right to education did not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience."

While the Court postured itself as defending the rights of the child and declared the State to know better than parents the best interests of their children, it also endorsed a "carefully reasoned" decision of the German courts indicating the State had an interest in subordinating value systems competing with the state's secular values. The Court agree with the finding of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court which stressed "the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society."
Education by its very nature calls for regulation by the state? Then it isn't a human right. And it follows the state's interests...not the interests of the child, the parent or necessarily even those of society in general.

While the parents were not formally imposing their religious convictions on their children against the children's age, the children were too young to understand the long term consequences. Hence, the only party able to determine what is best for the child is the state. Not the parent. Irrelevant of your religious or non-religious convictions regarding homeschooling. At least one case which came before the German courts dealt with a boy with disabilities and his doctors recommended a home-based program. If the state knows better than the parent, I'm sure it knows better than the doctor as well.

Schools represent society? And it is in the child's best interest to become a part of that society? I'm sorry, but the notion that homeschooling does not prepare the child for life "in society" is stereotypical at best. And goes right along with the next point.

It is in the general interest of the state to avoid the emergence of "parallel societies." Homeschoolers are not part of a parallel society. We are very much a part of our communities...involved in our churches, community organizations and political activity. In fact, research indicates that homeschoolers are more involved in their communities than the average public schooled child. The real danger is in the fact that homeschoolers are generally very active. We represent a small minority here in the US, and yet have a powerful voice. We are integrating into society and having an effect on society. If we were quietly parallel, we would be a unique oddity like the Amish, not such a perceived threat.

I fear that means that the legal course for German homeschoolers is over, at least for the moment. Honestly, I fear this will bring stricter regulations against homeschooling in other European Nations and will make it that much more unlikely that those nations which outlaw homeschooling will consider any other course of action. And it is a hint at what awaits homeschoolers here should we ever ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is not about the rights of the child, but who is best equipped to determine what is in the best interest of the child: the parent or the state.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg has ruled is the state.

Several links are provided at the end of the article.

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