Parents’ right to educate by its nature calls for regulation by the state

Yesterday, I shared an article about the homeschooling case in Germany that was finally heard by the European Court of Human Rights in Strassbourg. I finally found a link to the actual decision (PDF) by the Court. The Konrads have strong religious convictions and find that school education does not suit their beliefs because of sex education, the appearance of mythical creatures in fairytales and increasing physical and psychological violence between pupils at school. I’ll get to German sexual education later, but their case essentially hinged on the interpretation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 which states:

No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical covictions.

The European Court of Human Rights sided with Germany on every point.

1) In view of the power of the modern State, it is above all through State teaching that this aim (pluralism) must be realised.

2) The second sentence must be read together with the first…respect is only due to convictions on the part of the parents which do not conflict with the right of the child to education. This means that parents may not refuse the right to education of a child on the basis of their convictions.

It also means that the State only needs to respect your convictions if they align with the State’s goals.

3) The children are too young to to foresee the consequences of their parents’ desicion for home education, thus the State has the right to intervene.

So when the child is not old enough to know what is best for him, it is the state, not the parent, that determines what is in his best interest.

4) The right to education by its very nature calls for regulation by the State.

5) This part I actually don’t have as much of an issue with. If the entirity of the decision rested on this point, I would not be as frustrated with this kind of a decision. Basically, they found that Germany acted within the “Contracting States’ margin of appreciation which they enjoy in setting up and interpreting rules for their education systems.” On a point of national sovereignty, I tend to agree.

6) Germany is concerned with the development of “parallel societies” based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society. The Court found this to be in accordance with its own case-law on the importance of pluralism for democracy.

7) The last point is that Germany in no way infringed upon the family’s right to educate their children according to their own religious convictions because “the applicant parents were free to educate their children after school and at weekends…The compulsory primary school attendance does not deprive the applicant parents of their right to ‘exercise with regard to their children natural parental functions as educators, or to guide their children on a path in line with the parents’ own religious or philosophical convictions.'”

For these reasons, the Court unanimously declared the application inadmissable.

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0 Responses

  1. So in effect, the court ruled that the parents can have all the rights they want — but only after the state has all the rights THEY want. Ugly.

  2. I agree, Jodi. Some people think it can’t happen here. The other thing I hear is “What do conservatives have against rights for children?” (referring of course to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.) But that is about as good as when Spellings asks, “Whose child do you want left behind?”

    Just because the document has a name that sounds good does not mean that the document is good or that it embodies the principles that the title would imply.

    This decision is a perfect example of that…and is exactly how rulings here will come down if we continue to cite international law, precedents set from foreign courts and especially if we ever ratify the CRC here.

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