A family of German homeschoolers have been living in Tennessee for a couple of years now. They came seeking refuge from the government in their native land, where teaching your kids at home is effectively illegal. While most countries have some kind of education mandate, there are loopholes, exceptions, and limited enforcement. In Germany, the only exceptions are in cases of ill health—and a November 2007 ruling reinforced the state's right to take custody of kids who are not attending school.

The Romeike family was hit with fines "totaling over $11,000, threats that they would lose custody of their children and, one morning, a visit by the police, who took the children to school in a police van."

A judge found that the behavior of the German government amounted to persecution of this Christian family of seven, and granted them asylum at the end of January:

The family has been here for some time, having left Germany in 2008. But it was not until Jan. 26 that a federal immigration judge in Memphis granted them political asylum, ruling that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned.

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

As with many seemingly intolerant laws in Europe (like the Swiss ban on minarets), mandatory schooling rules—which date to the 19th century—remain in place partially due to fear of non-integrated (mostly Muslim) "parallel societies." For their part, Germans have reacted to the news of the asylum by being shocked that the U.S. is so loosey goosey with school attendance.

"No parental couple can offer a breadth of education [that can] replace experienced teachers," says [Josef] Kraus, of the German Teachers' Association. "Kids also lose contact with their peers." Concerns that homeschooling could lead to insularity—or worse, as Kraus puts it, "could help foster the development of a sect."