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August 30, 2013

From the 2012 GHEC:

Farris: Germany Breaking Pledge to Protect Rights

“A parent’s right to ensure that her child’s education is in conformity with her own religious convictions … may not be contravened even when the future of the nation is at stake.”

Mike Farris
HSLDA Founder, international law expert

Note: Mike Farris, HSLDA founder and international rights expert, explained how Germany’s persecution of homeschoolers violates human rights during a speech at the 2012 Global Home Education Conference in Berlin. Excerpts from that speech are printed below.

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It is beyond dispute that the freedom of religion and the rights of parents are basic human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted by unanimous vote of the United Nations General Assembly, is widely considered the cornerstone of modern human rights law. The UDHR recognizes that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (Art. 26(3)).

This aspirational article has been assimilated into binding provisions of two core human rights treaties. Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) “undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents … to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions” (Art. 18(4)). Parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights similarly pledge:

[R]espect for the liberty of parents … to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities, which conform to such minimum educational standards as may be laid down or approved by the State and to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions. (Art. 13(3))

Collectively known as the International Bill of Rights, these treaties establish three truths about the relationship between the state and parents as it pertains to children: 1) parental rights concerning their children are “prior” to any claim of the state, both in time and in rank; 2) parents have the right to ensure that their child’s education conforms to their own moral convictions; and 3) parents and others have the right to start schools that are separate from those offered by the state.

The primacy of these basic human rights is of the highest order. The ICCPR, which the United States has ratified, permits a nation to override certain human rights guarantees in times of “public emergency” when the life of the nation is threatened (Art. 4(1)). Article 4(2), however, contains an important exception: “No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision.” Tellingly, a parent’s right to ensure that her child’s education is in conformity with her own religious convictions (Art. 18) is one of these non-derogable rights which may not be contravened even when the future of the nation is at stake.

Germany is a party to all of these treaties. It has promised the whole world that it will never violate these rights even if the future of the nation is at stake. Thus, there is no balancing test that can ever be employed to justify a denial of these human rights. Germany’s contention that it must ban homeschooling to stop religious minorities from homeschooling lest they become a parallel society is not only insufficient to justify an exception to Germany’s human rights obligations, it is a confession by the German government that its actions are a per se violation of human rights standards.