NUREMBURG, Germany - It certainly looks as if the German government has declared open season on Germany's tiny home-schooling community.
CBN News was first to bring the story of Melissa Busekros to American television last year. The home-schooled teenager was snatched from her family by police in a SWAT style raid and put in a psychiatric ward. After an international uproar, Melissa was returned to her family.
But other home-schooling families face even worse persecution. More and more parents are being sent to prison. Heavy fines are leaving home-schooling families destitute. And more and more children have been taken into state custody.
Throw Back to the Third Reich
It's been 70 years since compulsory education was made law by Adolf Hitler's government. And in what is eerily reminiscent of the 1930s, more and more home-schooling families have been forced to flee Germany or risk losing their children.
Klaus and Kathryn Landahl fled to England after they were tipped off that authorities were going to take custody of their kids.
The Gorber family, who reside in southern Germany, have had six of their children taken from them by the state.
And Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek each face 3-month jail terms, and are economically ruined from heavy fines.
These are just a few of the cases. But there are only about 400 home-schooling families left in Germany now.
The home-schooling experts CBN News spoke to believe the government wants to wipe out the small home-schooling community here, before it can become popular, like it has in the United States.
"What you're having now is legitimate full blown persecution. They're trying to eradicate this movement before it can gain traction and become a popular movement like it has in America," explained attorney Joel Thornton, President and CEO of the International Human Rights Group, which defends German homes choolers in court.
In the Bavarian town of Schwabach, attorney Johannes Hildebrandt, who also represents home-schoolers, says the movement is at a critical point.
"In the courts, it is in danger. Home schooling is very strange to the German people. They have no experience with this kind of education," Hildebrandt said.
The German government's argument against home schooling as stated by Wolfgang Drautz, German Consul General is that "The public has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion or motivated by different world views and in integrating minorities into the population as a whole."
"Germany does not want the kind of citizens that home schooling produces. They've seen how the home-schooling movement in the U.S. developed and they're very keen on that not happening here," said German academic Klaus Guenther, who is also an American citizen and was home schooled.
Home schooling Barred to Non-Germans
The Germans don't even want non-Germans home schooling in Germany.
American missionaries Clint and Susan Robinson moved their family to Germany only to have their visa application turned down because they home school. They now have to leave the country, and are looking to move to Austria, which allows home schooling.
"What we're trying to do is get a house just across the border so we're living in Austria, where our visa comes from so the government can't control us with home schooling," says Clint Robinson.
Susan added tearfully, "We left our home country and came over here and God supplied this house and the environment and just everything, and now they're saying 'no, you can't stay, you've got to leave.' It's hard."
And at the same time that the German government is persecuting home-schoolers in Germany, including Americans who want to homeschool there, Berlin is encouraging its diplomats abroad, including its diplomats in Washington, to home school their children with a state homeschooling curriculum.
Thornton said, "Their officials are actually encouraged to home school and not put their children into American schools and into foreign schools."
A Questionable Education
A lot of American Christians would have good reason not to want their kids subjected to German state schools. The sex education curriculum is often pornographic, even for young ages, and the occult is often celebrated.
Missionary Robinson told CBN News, "I know of schools right in our area where it's not just mixed swimming but mixed showering after the swim class is over and mixed locker rooms and then they leave and go to the next class."
German home-schooler Heiko Krautter told us he would be sinning to put his children in a state school.
He said, "These things in the school, the official state school, they destroy the children. And we teach the children in the things of God. And the people in the official school teach the children in other things, against God."
Krautter fled Germany after this interview and took his family to Norway.
Thornton believes Germany's war on home-schooling is just a part of Europe's war against Christianity.
"This is a battle to eradicate spiritual life from every person in Europe, to eradicate spirituality and Christianity from the culture," he said.
And the unfortunate victims in this battle are the families who believe educating their children is their God-given right.
*Original broadcast August 11, 2008.