Prosecution of German Parents Has Ominous Implications for U.S. Families

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

Alan Sears, Esquire

ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel

April 28, 2009

Ordinarily, I keep the focus of these columns on court cases and litigation based here in the United States.  But anyone keenly watching the political skies has to realize that legal clouds are gathering dark and fast over other parts of the world – particularly Europe – and those clouds, sooner than we want to think, will be precipitating undesirable judicial activity on this side of the Atlantic.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is only the latest and most high-profile jurist to express her enthusiasm for overseas precedents; in fact, a growing number of judges in American appellate courts are indicating a willingness to submit U.S. jurisprudence – and the meaning of the United States Constitution – to the rulings of foreign judges and international courts.

That's why cases like the one involving Eduard and Elisabeth Elscheidt are of such primary concern for you and me and our families – even though this young Christian couple is facing their legal persecution many thousands of miles away.

Not long ago, the Elscheidts, who live in Germany, learned that one of their children, 11-year-old Franziska, was going to be subjected, with all her fellow students, to a four-day sexual indoctrination at her elementary school.  That indoctrination would culminate in a mandatory stage play, "My Body Is Mine," which – under the pretense of dramatizing child abuse – encouraged children to become sexually active (because, if it "feels good," why not?).

As committed Christians and members of a local Baptist church, the Elscheidts felt that they were within their legal and moral rights to protect their daughter, keeping Franziska home on those days and sharing with her, instead, their own biblically-informed views on sexuality.  Although they knew the school would have objections, they were confident that this was a right guaranteed to them under Protocol 1, Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

A German court disagreed.  The Elscheidts, brought up on charges by the federal government, were found guilty and fined.  Two appeals of that decision to higher German courts were both rejected, and now the couple has brought the case before the European Court of Human Rights, headquartered in Strasbourg, France.  The application objects to the punitive measures applied by the German court and seeks to establish that such opt-outs of "sexual education" programs are, in fact, in line with ECHR Protocol 1, Article 2.

"Parents, not the government, are the ones ultimately responsible for making educational choices for their children," said Alliance Defense Fund Legal Counsel Roger Kiska, who is representing the Elscheidts.  Kiska is ADF's first fulltime attorney living in Europe, where he synchronizes the efforts of our allied attorneys in that part of the world, and heightens our ministry's sensibility to legal tremors there that will likely produce powerful aftershocks in American courts.

"These parents were well within their rights under the European Convention of Human Rights," Kiska says, "To opt to teach their children a view of sexuality that is in accord with their own religious beliefs instead of sending them to a class and stage play they found objectionable.  These types of cases are crucial battles in the effort to keep bad decisions overseas from becoming precedents to be used by activists who attack parental rights in America."

Please be in prayer for the Elscheidts, and for many other families just like them across Europe who are grappling with government leaders and policies increasingly hostile to parental rights and Christian activities.  Please pray, too, for the wisdom of judges here in the U.S., that they will resist the pressures and temptations to subjugate the religious liberty of Americans to what judges in Europe do.