1972 May 15

Free Exercise of Religion Protects Parents’ Right to Control of Children’s Education

 

In Wisconsin v. Yoder, decided on this day, the Supreme Court, citing the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, ruled that states could not compel Amish children to attend public schools beyond the 8th grade.

In the 1920s the Supreme Court issued two decisions striking down state laws and upholding a constitutional right of parents to control their childrens’ education. The first involved a Nebraska law that forbade the teaching of German language in both public and private schools (June 4, 1923). The second involved an Oregon law, sponsored by the KKK, that would have closed Catholic and other private and parochial schools (June 1, 1925).

Chief Justice Warren Burger: “Only those interests of the highest order and those not otherwise served can overbalance legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion.”

Read: Shawn Peters, The Yoder Case: Religious Freedom, Education, and Parental Rights (2003)

Learn more about the Free Exercise Clause: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/free-exercise-clause

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