European court rules against Christian homeschooling family

European court rules against Christian homeschooling family January 12, 2019
Photo: Alliance Defending Freedom International

EUROPE’S top human rights court has ruled against a Christian family who defied a German law outlawing homeschooling.

Thursday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights said that German authorities did not violate the rights of the Wunderlich family when over two dozen government agents forcibly removed their four children from the home in Darmstadt in August 2013.

The family challenged the law with the help of two US-based organisations: the Home School Legal Defense Association and Alliance Defending Freedom International, a designated hate group in America.

At least 33 police officers and seven youth welfare officers stormed the Wunderlich home because the family was choosing to homeschool their children despite knowing that it has been outlawed in Germany since 1918.

The family wanted their children to be educated in an environment compatible with the parents’ religious convictions.

Wunderlich previously said that authorities were contacted by a neighbor who alleged that he said he would rather kill his children than send them to school. Wunderlich denied those accusations.

Although four children were removed from the home for a period of about three weeks, they were later returned to the home. Dirk and Petra Wunderlich were able to retain control of custody of their children. But according to Alliance Defending Freedom International, the parents are being required to send their children to a government-approved education programme.

The two US organisations argued that Germany’s homeschool policy violates a number of international human rights agreements that Germany is a party to that protect the right of parents to choose the best form of education for their children.

However, the court ruled that:

The enforcement of compulsory school attendance, to prevent social isolation of the applicants’ children and ensure their integration into society, was a relevant reason for justifying the partial withdrawal of parental authority.

[The court] further finds that the domestic authorities reasonably assumed — based on the information available to them — that children were endangered by the [parents] by not sending them to school and keeping them in a ‘symbiotic’ family system.

It added:

In contrast, having regard to the statements of, in particular, Mr Wunderlich — for example that he considered children to be the ‘property’ of their parents — and on the information available at the time, the authorities reasonably assumed that the children were isolated, had no contact with anyone outside of the family and that a risk to their physical integrity existed.


Image via YouTube

ADF International Executive Director Paul Coleman, above, who is constantly banging on about “persecuted Christians”, said in a statement that 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.

Wunderlich said after the ruling that it was a “disheartening day” for his family.

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.

The ECHR ruled that there was no violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights in Wunderlich’s case.

Article 8 states that everyone has “the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” and that “there shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security…”

Mike Donnelly, international homeschooling expert and director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, said.

This judgment is a huge setback but we will not give up the fight to protect the fundamental right of parents to homeschool their children in Germany and across Europe,

According to ADF International, the Wunderlichs will consider taking their case to the ECHR Grand Chamber, the highest level within Europe’s top human rights court.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Ignores the fact that Germany’s policy on homeschooling violates the rights of parents to educate their children and direct their upbringing.

    No, it simply recognizes that the right of children to receive a quality education outweighs some of the rights of parents to educate their children (nobody is preventing these parents from teaching their own children whatever they want to teach them, they are only limiting the right of the parents to prevent their children from learning things their society deems necessary for all citizens).

    I wish the U.S. had laws against home schooling.

  • otrame

    I don’t think an absolute ban on homeschooling is necessary. Preventing kids from learning something the parents don’t like, such as evolution, isn’t the only reason parents homeschool. I think it should require a license and testing to show that the kids are actually getting an education. The licensing would require the parents to show that public schools would provide a poor education for the individual child in question, and that the parents doing the homeschooling are actually teaching the kids. If the kids can’t pass tests every six months or so, the license gets yanked.

    On the other hand, I don’t understand why a “Free Thinker” believes parents should have the right to cripple a kid’s education.

  • Halbe

    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.

    From a US perspective maybe, but not from a Western-European perspective. In Western Europe the rights of the children are deemed more important than the rights of the parents when it comes to education. So, it comes down to whose freedom you care about: of the children, or of the parents. One could just as easily turn this around and say that this ruling is a step forward and should be celebrated by anyone who cares about freedom.

  • Michael Neville

    this ruling is a step forward and should be celebrated by anyone who cares about freedom.

    That’s how I see it.

  • Halbe

    One additional aspect is that school is more than just education. It is also a social institution where you interact with other children from other backgrounds, and with other adults as well. So, even if the education at home is good, the children will still miss out on important things.

  • Jemolk

    Good. Children are people, not property. The morally corrupt idea of property needs to die altogether, frankly, but treating children as owned by parents is particularly vile. This idea that parents have rights to dictate how their children live, even in the early years of their lives, is simply monstrous, and facilitates abuse. The power offered to parents is a solemn trust, exercised on the presumption that they love their children and want the best for them, and also know the children’s needs well. When that is not true, for example in cases where people treat children as property of parents, those privileges must be immediately revoked.

    This does not mean that there are never good reasons for homeschooling and similar. On the flip side, however, those reasons tend to involve schools and school administrators who are, to put it very mildly, fuckups. Generally, it’s related to them being fuckups with regard to kids not deemed “normal” and making school miserable for them by taking the side of bullies or by refusing to side with the bullies’ victims and talking about “toughening up” and similar crap.

  • (((J_Enigma32)))

    This ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.

    Not really, no. It’s about time someone started thinking about the rights of children and started putting value in the rights of children. The organizations you’re siding with here are organizations that have pushed back against laws that would regulate how parents abuse their children. It has nothing to do with “freedom” and everything to do with giving authoritarian parents total control over their children’s lives, since that’s what these groups want: parents to have total control over their children’s lives. I mean, fucking hell, the HSDL once called a man who locked his adopted children in cages a hero, for fuck’s sake.

    This is not a step in the wrong direction. This is probably one of the few things any apparatchik to the EU has done correctly in the last few years. Parental rights do not outweigh the rights of children, and the state exists as a tool to protect those who cannot protect themselves and ensure the freedom of those who cannot ensure it themselves — including, especially, children.

  • karmacat

    I notice how the homeschooling people talk about the rights of the parents but don’t talk about what children need. Children are just objects to them.

  • Robert Baden

    I have a somewhat different viewpoint.
    I was pulled out of public school in Michigan because after being privately tutored in Algebra I wasn’t given credit for it.
    The private school I went to advanced me a whole year in the math program after testing.
    Mom was convinced it was because we are Mexican American.
    She went to a segregated school for Mexican Americans back in Texas and didn’t have much use for it.
    I live in Texas now. The local and state school boards are nothing to cheer about.
    I wonder how, say, Roma children are treated in Europe.

  • Halbe

    Are you talking about home schooling or about public vs private schools? Those are very different topics. This topic is about home schooling.

  • Broga

    In the UK I think the Education Department inspects the adequacy of the home schooling. I still can’t understand how a parent can cover the spectrum of subjects that are needed: maths,,history, chemistry, a foreign language etc. Of course not all children will be taught every subject but who knows where their interest will take them. And then their is the games aspect, the socialising etc.

    For many I suspect home schooling is an opportunity for religious indoctrination.

    I many be wrong as I am not a teacher.

  • persephone

    You’re absolutely right. The family made it clear they wanted their children only to learn what they wanted to teach them, in line with their religion. That’s one of the reasons why QF and CPM families homeschool; another reason is to limit government scrutiny. What happens is that the children are crippled socially and educationally, making it difficult for them to leave the family and religion.

  • persephone

    This type of low-quality, religion-influenced homeschooling cripples the children educationally and socially, affecting the children’s ability to hold a decent job and develop relationships separate from their parents.

    This also puts a burden on society, as poorly educated children will not be able to contribute what would normally be their share monetarily and socially, and often develop mental issues related to their isolated upbringings and failure to thrive.

  • persephone

    I know of one case where a mother, due to her son’s developmental issues, homeschooled him for a year or two, and he improved enough to attend a specialized school after that.

    But homeschooling is not regulated in many states, and the ones that do regulate it have very little power. If regular testing were to be required, it would make a huge difference. Also, welfare checks should be done. It’s unfortunate, but many of the parents homeschooling aren’t doing it to teach their children or help a child who isn’t doing well in a regular school, but to hide abuse and neglect. Homebirthing is also very common, and then the child’s birth is never recorded with the government.

  • Broga

    It does seem common sense to accept that parents cannot cover the range of subjects. I went to a grammar school and the foreign languages were French and Latin. However, four boys learned Greek and another four German. They all had discovered an interest in those particular languages. That was a long time ago.

    However, coming to the present, my seven year old grandson is now absorbed in chess and this has been encouraged by a teacher. He instructs a small group about chess in his own time. And so on ……..

  • Broga

    I have heard of parents who, deciding that they could not educate their children as the children grew up, chose the Rudolph Steiner school and its methods. I do not know what these are as my kids and grandchildren went to state schools. And they are very happy, as are their parents, in the Brighton School they attend.

    I also notice on occasional visits to Brighton a sign for a Montessori school. I know nothing of this either.

    I can understand parents in some areas wanting to avoid state schools as indeed do the teachers. Five year olds arrive not knowing how to hold a pencil and some, a friend who is a teacher told me, scarcely social as they have been used to watching TV most of the day. The inadequate parents get very stroppy with teachers at attempts to control the kids.

    Faith Schools and something called “academics” all feed into this mix or should I say mess.

  • If the primary educator parent has teaching credentials, and the kid is evaluated by all the standard state testing, I’d allow it. But beyond that, no.

    I’ve seen first hand the damage caused by home schooling.

  • Intersection Victoria

    Have any evidence that Christian homeschooling is “crippling?”

  • Intersection Victoria

    The idea that homeschooling hurts children flies in the face of all the data. Homeschooled children disproportionately out perform public schooled kids in academics and stability of family life in their own adult lives. Sorry weirdos, time to get out of your echo chamber and realize that prior to the 1800’s, EVERYONE was homeschooled. Whether it was academics or trades. That includes such “stunted dunces” as Benjamin Franklin, Isaac Newton, Blaise Pascal, and everyone else on earth prior to the British public school movement of the mid 1800’s.

  • Sophotroph

    This ruling is a step in the wrong direction and should concern anyone who cares about freedom.

    What you’re forgetting is that a child’s right to an education trumps a parent’s right to provide them with none or an “alternate” one.

    This was the right ruling.

  • Sophotroph

    Homeschooled children disproportionately out perform public schooled kids in academics and stability of family life in their own adult lives.

    I have heard this lie before, and it’s still one now. The only studies that show anything like that use a cherry-picked selection of homeschooled children.

    Homeschooling can be fine, if the parents are competent teachers with a legitimate curriculum. In practice, this is often not the case.

  • Sophotroph

    Look at the materials used. Read up on ACE or Abeka. They’re designed to create unthinking, unquestioning, dogmatic little Christian soldiers with no real career prospects outside clergy and manual labor.

  • DingoJack

    What? Like Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare?

  • Raging Bee

    …a child’s need for an education trumps a parent’s right to provide them with none or an “alternate” one.


  • Raging Bee

    The least I can say for my parents is that they were both smart enough to know they weren’t smart enough to handle ALL of my educational needs.

  • Raging Bee

    Yeah — lots of people who learned first-hand that the Christian homeschooling they got was nothing but dishonest, obscurantist, crippling bullshit that did them more harm than good.

  • Treyarnon

    No, not everybody before 1800 was home schooled in Europe. Some English public schools date from the first millennium e.g. Kings Schools Canterbury (597), Kings School Rochester, (605). Medieval schools taught Latin, music, law, astronomy etc, especially for those entering the church. Early modern grammar schools date from the before the 16c. Isaac Newton was educated at the local school in Woolsthorpe, the village of his birth, and then at King’s School in Grantham before studying at Trinity College Cambridge. Shakespeare was educated from the age of 6 or 7 at Stratford grammar school, which when he started to attend was approximately 200 years old.

  • Barros Serrano

    I am a former bilingual teacher in California. The racism against Mexicans in the schools is thick as a London fog. I had to deal with that crap almost daily. Despite speaking Spanish and being very familiar with Mexican culture I am a gringo and learned very quickly that the sort of racism against blacks I’d encountered back East was thriving against Mexicans in California.

    We homeschooled our daughter in 7th grade because we’d moved to a very white area along the central coast and we wanted to protect her from all the racism, as my daughter is half Mexican. She hated homeschooling so we put her in the school for 8th grade and sure enough she got a big lesson in white racism. The whites and Mexicans at lunch sat on opposite sides of the yard, with a wide no-man’s-land in between. At first our daughter was accepted by neither group, due to having a parent from each, but after a few days one of the Mexican girls stood up in class and announced, “Look, her mother is Mexican, she has a Mexican name, the whites don’t want her, she’s one of us!!” and put her arm around our daughter. After that she could eat lunch on the Mexican side.

    However, I remain opposed to homeschooling, generally, because it is mostly practiced by Christian-Right nuts.

  • Barros Serrano

    Right. In the U$A, more often home-schooling is by an ignorant Christian-Right parent teaching their kids that the Indians deserved it, evolution is demonic, etc., etc., etc.