Article

Religious liberty and education: An update on the Wunderlich family

Jan 18, 2019

On January 10, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against a German family’s right to homeschool their children. In recent years, the Wunderlich family has moved throughout Europe in search of the freedom to educate their children in the context of their home per their religious convictions. While Germany has legally banned homeschooling since 1918, the country has also signed numerous “international human rights agreements that explicitly protect the rights of parents to choose the manner of education for their children.” As international religious freedom experts have noted, the rights of the Wunderlich family to homeschool and live out their religious convictions in a holistic manner are at stake. The recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights is a terrible injustice, not only for the Wunderlich family, but for any global community that cares about international religious liberty.

In one of Joe Carter’s recent articles on this case, he noted that “many Western nations have made it clear that parents are not a protected group.” The implications of this reality are seen even more clearly in the statements made in November 2015 by the late Justice Scalia at Georgetown University. Scalia stated that while he believed that parental rights fell under the category of “unalienable rights,” such rights were not explicitly protected in the Constitution. Carter is again helpful in noting that though it has not made many headlines, there is currently a constitutional amendment pending in the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice. There are six sections to the joint resolution. They state the following:

Section 1: The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.

Section 2: The parental right to direct education includes the right to choose, as an alternative to public education, private, religious, or home schools, and the right to make reasonable choices within public schools for one’s child.

Section 3: Neither the United States nor any State shall infringe these rights without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.

Section 4: The parental rights guaranteed by this article shall not be denied or abridged on account of disability.

Section 5: This article shall not be construed to apply to a parental action or decision that would end life.

Section 6: No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.

Everyone who values religious liberty should be in contact with their representatives and senators to put more attention on this amendment. Furthermore, even those who may not agree with evangelicals on parenting matters ought to be supportive of an amendment that limits the government’s ability to interfere with the special relationship of a parent and a child. The government is not equipped nor called by Scripture to care for children in the robust manner that a family does. Parents often know the needs of their children better than a government official or the Department of Education. Moreover, even when parents fail in their obligations to seek the good of their children and have their parental rights terminated, it is better for those children to be placed in loving homes under the care of foster parents or adoptive parents who can nurture them. Government cannot replace the family. Instead, government should serve families by supporting their stability and freedom, not undermine them by seeking to replace them.

God has ordained government for particular purposes (Rom. 13:1-7), but requiring the compulsory public education of children in a particular context is not one of them. Parents should have the freedom to choose how and where their children are educated. As for the case of the Wunderlich family, all those who value freedom and family should support their cause and pray that their government would respect their parental rights and allow them to live at peace with others (1 Tim. 2:1-2) according to their consciences before God (James 4:12).

Casey B. Hough

Casey B. Hough is pastor of First Baptist Church of Camden, Arkansas, and a Ph.D. student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also blogs regularly at www.TheRenewedChurch.com on matters related to pastoral ministry and church health. Casey and his wife, Hannah,... Read More