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German home-schooling case goes before European Court of Human Rights

Parental rights of German family severely violated, ADF International makes final submissions to European high court

STRASBOURG, France – ADF International finalized written submissions Thursday for submission to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of a German family asking the high court to protect the freedom of parents to home-school their children. The eventual judgment in the case will have wide implications regarding parental rights for the 800 million Europeans who are subject to the rulings of the court.

“Children deserve the loving care and protection of their parents. It is a serious thing for a country to interfere with the parent-child bond, so it should only do so where there is a real risk of serious harm,” said ADF International Director of European Advocacy Robert Clarke, lead counsel for the family in Wunderlich v. Germany. “Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions—something they believe they can do better in the home environment. The right of parents to direct the upbringing of their children is a fundamental right protected in all of the major human rights treaties. Germany has signed on to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences.”

In August 2013, a group of more than 20 police officers and social workers stormed the home of the Wunderlich family near Darmstadt, Germany. The family had just sat down to begin its first home-school lesson of the year.

Germany’s ban on home schooling dates back to 1918. Since then, the country has signed on to a number of international human rights agreements that explicitly protect the right of parents to direct the education of their children.

Although the authorities returned the children to Dirk and Petra, the legal situation remains uncertain, and Germany continues to maintain criminal penalties for families who want to home-school. Recently, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to review the family’s case. The court agreed to look at whether Germany’s actions breached the right to family life, which is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“I sincerely hope the European Court of Human Rights will reaffirm that the state has no right to abduct children from their family just because they are being home-schooled,” said Dirk Wunderlich, the father of the family. “Our youngest daughter was only four years old when the authorities broke into our home and took our children without warning. She couldn’t stop crying for 11 days. Her older sister hasn’t laughed since this incident. We chose to educate our children at home, because we believe this to be the best environment for them to learn and thrive.”

“Children are born to parents, not governments, and Germany’s homeschooling policy is completely out of step with other free democracies that allow home education as part of their free and civil societies,” said Mike Donnelly, international homeschooling expert and director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has long supported the family in its legal struggles. “Human rights experts at the UN and scholars worldwide have found that home education is a natural, fundamental, and protected human right. The court must hold Germany accountable to respect this.”

  • Fact sheetWunderlich v. Germany
  • Pronunciation guide: Wunderlich (VUHN’-der-lick)

ADF International is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.


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