Civil disobedience does not come easily to Morristown, a conservative spot of almost 30,000 souls. Yet city fathers swore to endure jail time, if necessary, to shield Uwe Romeike, his wife Hannelore and their seven children, from federal agents with orders to expel them from Morristown, where they have lived since fleeing Baden-Württemberg in 2008. A stand-off seemed likely when, on March 3rd, the Supreme Court declined to hear a final appeal against the Romeikes’ expulsion, handing victory to the American government, which had always rejected the family’s claims to be refugees from religious and social persecution. However, a day later federal officials put the family’s deportation on indefinite hold—thereby allowing them to stay without setting a legal precedent (and without insulting Germany, a close ally).
German laws forbid parents from educating their children at home in almost all cases, citing society’s interest in avoiding closed-off “parallel societies”. Germany’s highest court calls schools the best place to bring together children of different beliefs and values, in the name of “lived tolerance”. In plainer language, the Romeikes believe that, if they return to Germany, their children face being taken to school by force. This happened in 2006: the youngsters wept as they were driven away in a police van. (On the next school morning supporters showed up and officers backed off.) Worse, their children might be taken into care—this is the family’s greatest fear, prompting their flight from Germany. As the Romeikes scanned the globe for options, the Home School Legal Defence Association, a Virginia-based group, urged them to apply for asylum in America. The hope was to cause a fuss in the press, says an HSLDA lawyer, Michael Donnelly, and to “fuel the flame of liberty in Germany”.