Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, U.S. Supreme Court. (1972)
Facts: Members of the Older Amish religion and the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church were convicted of violating Wisconsin’s compulsory school attendance law. The law states that every child must attend public or private school up to age sixteen. The respondents want to withhold their children from attending school after the eighth grade because secondary schooling conflicts Amish principles that dictate their way of life and provide their salvation.
Procedural History: Trial court denied motion to dismiss the charges. The Wisconsin Circuit Court affirmed the convictions. Wisconsin Supreme Court reversed the convictions. On petition from the State of Wisconsin, the U.S. Supreme Court granted cert.
Issues: Whether the State of Wisconsin’s objective of providing all children with the benefits of secondary schooling regardless of religious affiliation conflicts with the free exercise clause of the first amendment and the traditional right of parents to decide a child’s religious upbringing.
Reasoning: The Amish people believe their salvation is dependent on their insulation from the influence of the outside world. Since public and private high schools wish to install principles such as individual competitiveness and subject children to pressures of the outside world, making Amish children attend secondary schooling would hinder the religious upbringing the Amish community values. The religious upbringing of Amish children is very important to the practice of the Amish religion. As a result, Wisconsin’s compulsory secondary schooling law infringes upon the free practice clause of the First Amendment. Also, the states claim that it is empowered, as parens patriae, to provide children secondary regardless of the parents wishes cannot be held by the free exercise clause because there would be no negative effect upon the mental health or physical health of Amish children if they did not attend two years of secondary schooling.