Parents sentenced to prison for protecting their young children from sexually explicit school course
What’s at Stake
The right of parents to determine their children’s education
As loving parents, Eduard and Rita Wiens wanted to protect their children from exposure to material that they deemed harmful to their development. When the school in Salzkotten, Germany, put on a two-day interactive “sex education” theatre workshop called “My Body is Mine”, they decided to remove their children from it. Five other married couples made the same decision. School authorities then hit the couples with a fine of over €2,000 each for trying to protect their children in this way.The parents, all members of the Christian Evangelical Baptist Church, strongly felt that the courses, books, and workshop would expose their seven to nine-year-old children to content of a pornographic nature. The material contradicted their belief that sex should be limited to marriage. In their view, the explicit sex education workshop amounted to the premature “sexualization” of their children. The families appealed the fines but lost their appeals in court.
Some of the families were also fined for keeping their children home from school during a school celebration of the “Lütke Fastnacht” (a traditional carnival celebration). They saw this as a celebration directed by carnal desire and accompanied by immoral and uninhibited behavior.
None of the parents agreed to pay the fines because they didn’t see how such fines were lawful simply for protecting their children from sexualization. The 12 parents were then sentenced to prison for over 40 days for standing up for their families and beliefs.
Parents should be free to decide what they do and don’t want their children to be taught. The German authorities clearly undermined this right by imposing these harsh penalties. With the support of ADF International, the Salzkotten parents took their cases to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and appealed what they considered to be an unlawful exertion of power on behalf of the German State.
Sadly, the ECHR failed to uphold the parents’ right to decide their children’s education. In September 2011, the Court rejected the parents’ case and held that the compulsory sex education aimed at avoiding “parallel societies”, and was therefore valid. But more positively, the school authorities in Salzkotten have now agreed to provide parental opt-outs when parents such as the Wiens object on moral or religious grounds to the “sex education” being provided.
Our Role in the Case
ADF International represented the parents before the European Court of Human Rights and continues to work with families in the region to ensure parental rights are respected.