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U.S. asylum case

Faith, hope and charity shaping kids' education Add to ...

Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, and their five children, left Germany for the United States two years ago, and just two months ago, a Tennessee judge granted them asylum. The reason? They would be persecuted for home-schooling their children if they returned to their homeland.

The Romeikes pulled their children out of school in 2006, because they said their two older children were being bullied, and not receiving an education that taught them Christian values. Their eldest daughter was suffering from headaches and stomach aches, which a doctor told them was psychosomatic. Just days into the school year, the principal told them they could not keep their children at home. This was followed by a visit from the police, who escorted the children to school. Then authorities started fining the family.

Mr. Romeike said the main reason the family left Germany was because the laws changed, and authorities could take their children away. Because of Mr. Romeike's occupation - a piano teacher - the places they could move were limited. Governments funded music schools in other German-speaking countries, so a freelance teacher would have a difficult time getting by, he said.

The Home School Legal Defense Association, a non-profit advocacy group in the United States, offered help.

Michael Donnelly, a lawyer with the group, said he believed this was the first time a family was granted asylum because of home-schooling.

"The Romeikes were motivated by concern of the environment and their faith," Mr. Donnelly said.

"Our main argument was the Romeikes were members of a particular social group, that home-schoolers were a particular social group in Germany and they were being persecuted." U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has appealed the decision, Mr. Donnelly said.

But in the meantime, Mr. Romeike said his children, ranging in age from four to 12, have settled into their lives in Morristown, Tenn., making friends, and learning English.

"We now have the freedom to home-school our children here," he said.

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