It’s a good thing the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t around when the Mayflower arrived. Those venerable jurists would have sent its passengers packing.
The Pilgrims’ search for religious freedom is central to our understanding of who we are as a country. But their story would never weather a court challenge today. They weren’t even persecuted in the Netherlands, after all. They simply found the Dutch culture and language strange, and Dutch morals loose–and they feared they were losing their children to the dominant Dutch culture.
Cry me a river, the Sixth Circuit would say.
In fact, they just did.
German immigrants Uwe and Hannelore Romeike have a much stronger case than the Pilgrims ever did. But the Sixth Circuit handed them their hats Tuesday, and told them to go back to Germany.
Home schooling is illegal in Germany. But, concerned about public school teachings at odds with their Christian faith, the couple began home schooling their children in 2007. They were quickly hit with over ten thousand dollars in fines and threatened with the loss of their children. In 2008, they came to the United States and later sought asylum here.
In 2010, U.S. Immigration Judge Lawrence O. Burman granted their petition. He found that they had a “well-founded fear of persecution” for their beliefs if they returned to Germany. He noted in his decision that:
[T]he rights that are being violated in this case are basic to humanity, they are basic human rights which no country has a right to violate, even a country that is in many ways a good country, such as Germany.
But the Justice Department appealed the decision. And, in 2012, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) overturned Judge Burman’s decision. The Romeikes, in turn, appealed that decision. (I wrote about their situation back in February, if you want more detail than I’ve given here.)
Tuesday a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati upheld the BIA decision. (You can read the full decision here.) The appellate court said that the Romeikes aren’t eligible for asylum because they weren’t persecuted in Germany.
Draconian fines? Nope. Threats of losing their children? Pshaw. It’s not persecution, the court said, because the law applies equally to everyone. German law prohibits everyone from home schooling.
It’s a patently ridiculous argument. Suppose we passed a law requiring businesses to be open on Saturday. It wouldn’t precipitate a crisis of conscience for most Americans. Most of us aren’t adverse to working on Saturdays. (Okay, so maybe we are–but not morally opposed, just a tad lazy.) It would, however, be tremendously oppressive to our Orthodox Jewish, Conservative Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist friends and neighbors.
Notice: The law would apply equally to everyone in the country–but would only persecute a small minority. But, incredibly, the 6th Circuit says that even when a law violates human rights, it doesn’t rise to the level of persecution as long as it is “equally administered to all.”
Bring on the thumb screws and rack! Just be sure you administer them equally to all.
But it gets worse. The German government is on record as saying that the law is specifically intended to target people like the Romeikes. A 2003 German Supreme Court decision held that Germany’s compulsory attendance law served a legitimate state interest by “counteracting the development of parallel societies.” In plain English, that means the purpose of the law is to suppress people who think differently than the majority: religious and philosophical minorities, in other words.
Enforced groupthink doesn’t persecute minorities? Who are we trying to kid?
The Romeikes plan to appeal to the full Sixth Circuit. But if they lose there, they’re probably out of options. Except for bankruptcy, imprisonment and the loss of their children.
Or doing what they believe to be wrong.
Unless, of course, they want to slip into Mexico. There, as Don Vincenzo suggests at The Thinking Housewife, they could wait for the President to get his amnesty plan through Congress before returning as illegal aliens. Then the same Justice Department that is forcing them out would presumably welcome them with open arms.
What’s wrong with this picture?