European Union’s assault on religious freedom must end

There has been a growing assault on religious freedom in the European Union and many of its member states. Among other things, these states are engaging in prohibitions or severe restrictions on homeschooling, religious clothing, religious methods of meat production, and circumcision.

Eight out of twenty-eight EU member states currently prohibit homeschooling. Homeschooling is a method of education in which children are educated by parents or tutors outside of the formal school setting. This prohibition infringes upon the traditional interests of parents regarding the religious upbringing of their children. In the countries that prohibit homeschooling, parents who defy the homeschooling prohibition often face heavy fines, and in some cases can even lose custody of their children.

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Germany criminalized homeschooling in 1938 as part of its policy of “Gleichschaltung,” which was a policy of bringing governmental control over all aspects of society. In all the years that have passed since, the German government never repudiated the law and it is still fully enforced.

Recently, a Christian family from Germany had to seek asylum in the United States to avoid persecution for homeschooling their children. After facing fines, imprisonment, and the seizure of their children, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike came to the U.S. with their children seeking asylum in 2008, and were formally granted asylum in 2010 by an immigration judge in Memphis, Tennessee. In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder appealed that decision and attempted to have the family deported back to Germany where they would face further persecution. In March of 2014 the appeal was denied, and the family was granted an indefinite stay in the US.

A Swedish family recently faced similar persecution for homeschooling their children. In 2009, when Christer and Annie Johansson attempted to leave Sweden because of Sweden's laws against homeschooling, Swedish authorities abducted their son Domenic, without a court order, solely because he was homeschooled.

France has banned the wearing of religious clothing in public schools. Sweden and Denmark have banned religious methods of meat production, and bills have been introduced in several other EU member states proposing to ban religious methods of meat production and circumcision.

Sweden banned religious methods of meat production in 1937. The inherently anti-Semitic law was purportedly based on the testimony of a veterinarian named Sahlstedt who had cited German claims from the time which alleged that the kosher method of meat production inflicted more pain on animals than other methods.

Denmark banned religious methods of meat production in February of 2014. When questioned about the motivation behind the ban, Denmark’s Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Dan Jørgensen was quoted as saying “animal rights come before religion.” The ignorant claim that kosher (Jewish) and halal (Islamic) methods of meat production are cruel to animals has been repeatedly disproven by numerous studies, including a series of studies conducted by Dr. Temple Grandin at Colorado State University, and a study conducted by Dr. Rael Strous and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky published in the journal Meat Science, among others.

In response to these actions, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) introduced the “European Union Religious Freedom Act.” This bill will amend the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to make clear that violations of this nature are among those our nation abhors and seeks to prevent. The European Union has no moral authority to speak about human rights when it is engaging in such severe assaults on basic religious freedoms. In light of the European Union’s coercive attempts to impose European social trends onto less powerful states, this bill is all the more necessary.

I encourage the American readers of this article to contact their congressional representative and ask them to cosponsor this bill, H.R. 4650, and I encourage the European readers of this article to encourage their members of parliament to repeal these oppressive laws.

Leshin is legislative assistant to Rep. Stockman.