German parents lost their last legal appeal on September 11, 2006 when the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) allowed to stand a German Federal Constitutional Court (FCC) decision from November 2003 stating parents do not have a right to educate their children at home.
The case involved Fritz and Marianna Konrad, a Herbolzheim couple that wanted to homeschool their two children because they believed the public schools undermined their religious values.
In their legal battle to homeschool, the Konrads lost several court cases, including the one they appealed to Germany’s highest court, the Federal Constitutional Court.
The American-based Home School Legal Defense Association reports approximately 500 children are homeschooled in Germany. Several parents who have attempted to homeschool have been fined and imprisoned because they have not complied with compulsory school attendance laws.
The Konrads appealed the German court’s decision to the ECHR, a special court that enforces the European Convention of Human Rights. They cited Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 of the Convention, which says, “the state shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions.”
The ECHR stated in its Konrad and Others v. German Decision opinion that the German FCC had attempted to balance individual rights with “the state’s obligation to provide for education of responsible citizens who participate in a democratic and pluralistic society.”
The opinion characterized the FCC decision as expressing concern for the integration of all members into society.
American analysts said they were disappointed by the decision, but not surprised.
“I’m never surprised when statism surfaces in Europe, because statism is so deep in Europe,” said Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center, a Rockford, Illinois-based group that researches the family’s role in society. “European families are increasingly threatened by an anti-family bureaucracy and court system.”
Carlson said the German and EU courts ruled “it was in the children’s best interest to be indoctrinated in the prevailing social order.”
Michael Coulter ([email protected]) teaches political science at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.