Immigrants fleeing Europe to escape religious persecution, coming to America to find religious freedom — we think of that as an image from our past: the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, William Penn, Lord Calvert.
But it’s happening today. German Christians are trying to find a way to emigrate to the United States to preserve their faith and their families from persecution by an aggressively secular German government.
“We probably can’t get political asylum, so we’ll have to find another way,” said Richard Guenther, director of “Schulunterricht zu Hause,” a German homeschooling association. “Regular immigration isn’t so easy, either. One application to immigrate can mean two years of paperwork, and we need something a lot faster. But we’re working on it.”
Claims of anti-Christian persecution in our country usually involve such matters as discrimination in the workplace, court-ordered removal of religious symbols, or bigoted TV shows.
In Germany, persecution means fathers and mothers jailed for trying to homeschool their children, Christian children taken into custody by the state and placed in orphanages, and government officials telling “fundamentalists” to get out of Germany.
But even getting out of Germany sometimes isn’t enough. Germans who have fled to France and Austria — where homeschooling is legal — remain under pressure to send their children to secular schools. Although living in foreign countries, they are still coerced to obey German compulsory schooling laws.
“Germany is the financial power in the European Union,” Guenther said. “France and Austria are anxious to please the German government.”
To Americans, some of the goings-on in German public schools may seem incredible.
“I can only assure you that the content of much of the curriculum is of a pornographic nature,” Guenther said. “School authorities are encouraging the parents of two- or three-year-olds to sexually stimulate their children and to have the children touch them in a sexual way. They have children touch each other’s private parts during nap time in the classroom. This aggressive emancipatory sexual education without norms … is against human dignity.”
Naturally, Christian parents try to remove their children from this environment. But when they do, the state steps in to punish them.
Guenther, American-born and raised, moved to Germany in 1995 with his German wife, Ingrid. The problem with Germany, he said, is that it’s been a socialist country for two generations.
“German culture was already subservient to state authority, and socialism reinforces this,” he said. “Socialism makes people think in a box: everyone has to be the same. If you think differently, you’re not accepted.”
Christian children are not accepted by their socialist schoolmates, he said — leading to ostracism, mockery, even beatings, and school phobia.
Russian Germans: Victims
The main target of the German state’s anti-Christian campaign, Guenther said, is a population of some 3 million recent immigrants from Russia — Germans from Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Siberia, and elsewhere. Many of those from Kazakhstan are Baptists.
“We don’t know how many of these families have already fled to other European countries or to Canada,” he said. “Here in Paderborn [where he and Ingrid live], there are eight Russian German families who have been threatened with imprisonment and loss of their children. A few parents have already been jailed for trying to homeschool their children.”
The county administrator of Paderborn, Sven Adenauer — grandson of West Germany’s first postwar chancellor, Konrad Adenauer — recently said, publicly, “fundamentalist Christians should leave the country.” Grandfather Konrad Adenauer was imprisoned in a concentration camp by the Nazis for his beliefs.
“Sven Adenauer is a very wicked man,” Guenther said, “but he’s only one of many German government officials who say things like this.”
Can They Get to America?
Fueling Germany’s new anti-religious policies is fear of Islam. Turkish and other Muslim immigrants to Germany now number in the millions and have been slow to assimilate into the German culture. Indeed, many Muslims vehemently reject European secularism. The government’s policy, Guenther said, is aimed at forcibly “integrating” Muslims into Germany society — and Christians who reject secularism.
As one of America’s major foreign allies against Muslim terrorists, Germany’s political relationship with the United States is an obstacle to the German Christians being granted political asylum here.
Another obstacle to immigration, he said, is the large size of some of the German Russian families: “Some of them have 12 children. It’s not easy to find an American sponsor for such a large family.”
Guenther praised Houston, Texas, attorney Bruce Shortt for his ongoing research into the immigration laws and his search for a way to bring the German Christians to America. The aspiring immigrants have also received support in America from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
“America is vital to the preservation of Christianity,” Guenther said. “The fight in Germany is pretty much over; we don’t think there’s anything more we can do in Germany. But America has resisted socialism and secularism. It’s still a country of religious freedom.”
“I and many others have tried over the last year to bring pressure on the German government to get them to respect the rights of Christian parents in Germany,” Shortt said. His efforts included an email campaign directed at the German Embassy. He told Guenther in an email that “there are various strategies on immigration … I think there may be some families here [in Houston] who would be willing to provide temporary help to immigrating Germans.”
The experience of the German Christians, he said, “ought to be a cautionary tale for all Christians and homeschoolers.”
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.