The European Court of Human Rights today ruled against a German homeschooling family who many believe were the victims of persecution by the government because they resisted compulsory state and private education.
In the case of Wunderlich v. Germany, the court said that the German authorities’ actions were not in violation of the Wunderlich family’s fundamental rights.
In August 2013, more than 30 police officers and social workers stormed the home of the Wunderlich family, removing the children. Although the children were eventually returned to their parents, their legal status remained unclear.
That wasn’t just an isolated incident. Germany punishes families who homeschool with heavy fines and the removal of children from the home.
After courts in Germany ruled in favor of the government, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to take up the Wunderlich case in August 2016.
“We are extremely disappointed with this ruling of the Court,” said Robert Clarke, director of European Advocacy for ADF International and lead counsel for the Wunderlich family.
“It disregards the rights of parents all over Europe to raise their children without disproportionate interference from the state. Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply wanted to educate their children in line with their convictions and decided their home environment would be the best place for this. Children deserve this loving care from their parents,” Clarke said.
“We are now advising the Wunderlichs of their options, including taking the case to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights,” he said.
“It is a very disheartening day for our family and the many families affected by this in Germany,” said Dirk Wunderlich, the father of the children. “After years of legal struggles, this is extremely frustrating for us and our children. It is upsetting that the European Court of Human Rights has not recognized the injustices we have suffered at the hands of the German authorities.”
Paul Coleman, executive director of ADF International, said the ruling “ignores the fact that Germany’s policy on homeschooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing. It is alarming to see that this was not recognized by the most influential human rights court in Europe. This ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.”
Mike Donnelly, international homeschooling expert and director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association – which has long supported the family in their legal struggles – called the ruling “a huge setback.” But he said, “We will not give up the fight to protect the fundamental right of parents to homeschool their children in Germany and across Europe.”