ADF International


German homeschooling case before European Court of Human Rights

Parental rights of German family severely violated; ADF International makes final submissions in case of homeschoolers to ECHR

STRASBOURG – On 6 April, ADF International finalized its written submissions in the case of the German homeschooling family – the Wunderlichs – to the European Court of Human Rights. The judgment 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.

“Children deserve the loving care and protection of their parents. It is a serious thing for a state to interfere with the parent-child bond. It should only do so where there is a real risk of serious harm. Petra and Dirk Wunderlich simply exercised their parental right to raise their children in line with their philosophical and religious convictions – something they thought they could 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 up to these treaties and yet continues to ignore its obligations with devastating consequences,” said Robert Clarke, Director of European Advocacy for ADF International and lead counsel on the Wunderlich case during a media background briefing.

Ban on homeschooling dates back to 1918

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 homeschool lesson of the year.

Germany’s ban on homeschooling dates back to 1918. Since then, the country has signed up 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 position remains uncertain and Germany continues to maintain criminal penalties for families who want to homeschool. Recently, the European Court of Human Rights agreed to review the family’s case. The Court has 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.

In violation of parental 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 homeschooled. Our youngest daughter was only four years old when the authorities broke into our home and took the children without warning. She could not stop crying for eleven days. Her older sister has not 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,” said Dirk Wunderlich, the father of the family.

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

Related Case: Wunderlich v. Germany

Here you can find our factsheet on the case.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.