The Association for Decentralized Learning, a Christian hybrid school provider in Germany which offers both virtual and home education, filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights after government officials refused to grant the entity approval to open new schools.
German authorities did not approve a 2014 application from the Association for Decentralized Learning to launch primary and secondary educational opportunities. Attorneys filed a lawsuit over the inaction in 2017 and presented their case in three separate hearings. The German Constitutional Court dismissed a final domestic appeal last year.
Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom International will represent the school before the European Court of Human Rights and contend that the denial of recognition for “an innovative school based on Christian values” should draw scrutiny, according to a press release from the faith-based legal advocacy organization.
“The right to education includes the right to embrace innovative approaches like hybrid schooling,” ADF International Director of European Advocacy Felix Böllmann said in the release. “By restricting this educational model, the state is violating the right of German citizens to pursue education that conforms with their convictions. When it comes to the requirement of physical presence, Germany has one of the most restrictive educational systems in the world.”
Current students at the Association for Decentralized Learning reportedly maintain average standardized test scores higher than their peers at government-controlled institutions. Court officials acknowledge the robust educational outcomes but contend that the school’s hybrid model does not offer sufficient socialization for participants.
Home education has been outlawed in Germany for more than a century; four years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a family from Darmstadt, Germany, which had asserted the right to homeschool their children. Private religious schools, although legal, must follow state-mandated curricula from the area in which they are located.
Tobias Riemenschneider, a pastor at Evangelical Reformed Baptist Church in Frankfurt, Germany, said in an interview with The Daily Wire that the nation’s restrictive education laws present “great difficulty to parents who are convinced by their Christian faith that it is God’s will for them to raise their children themselves in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” He noted that parents who defy government sanctions against home education risk incurring considerable fines, prison sentences, and the possibility that authorities will take their children.
“Even for many Christians who see school attendance as generally compatible with their faith, the situation has changed fundamentally in the last three years,” Riemenschneider said. “In recent times, the state has increasingly included ideologies in the curriculum that contradict the teachings of the Bible, such as homosexuality or transgenderism. Many parents legitimately worry that their child will be indoctrinated at school contrary to their beliefs and may even be encouraged to embrace homosexuality or undergo sex reassignment surgery.”
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Riemenschneider said that Christian families, including some from his congregation, have left Germany to homeschool their children in Switzerland and France over the lack of robust private Christian schools and the cost of enrolling students in the programs. Across Europe, however, home education is “becoming increasingly difficult” or is “banned altogether.”
“If you stay in Germany, the best, and for many only, option is to put your children in as good a Christian school as possible and take the necessary time every day to correct things at home that were taught at school and may go against the parents’ faith,” he added.
Riemenschneider, an attorney by training, expressed doubt that the European Court of Human Rights would intervene in the century-old German school system.
“The current case differs from previous cases in that it is not parents who are suing, but a private school that offers a hybrid school model that combines physical attendance with homeschooling,” he noted. “Particularly in light of the fact that during COVID, public schools had themselves temporarily switched to homeschooling, maintaining such a ban would seem less than stringent.”
The outcome of the case is personal for Riemenschneider since his oldest daughter is slated to begin her formal education next year. “I still don’t know what to do about this,” he added.