Wisconsin v. Yoder Case Brief

Facts of the case

Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller, both members of the Old Order Amish religion, and Adin Yutzy, a member of the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were prosecuted under a Wisconsin law that required all children to attend public schools until age 16. The three parents refused to send their children to such schools after the eighth grade, arguing that high school attendance was contrary to their religious beliefs.

Why is the case important?

Several Amish families appealed a decision convicting them of failing to send their children to school until the age of 16 based upon Freedom of Religion under the constitution.

Question

Did the application of the compulsory attendance law violate respondent’s rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution?

ANSWER

The application of the law is unconstitutional as applied to the Amish.
The Amish object to the high school education because the values taught there are in marked variance from the Amish values and way of life. It places Amish children in an environment hostile to their beliefs and takes them away from their community during a crucial period in their life. The Amish do not object to elementary education. Expert Dr. Hostetler testified that the compulsory attendance could result in not only great psychological harm to Amish children but ultimately the destruction of the Old Order Amish church community.

CONCLUSION

The Court found that the parents’ fundamental religious belief that they should remain aloof from the worldwas endangered by the enforcement of the public education laws. Although neutral on its face, the compulsory school attendance law unduly burdened the Free Exercise Clause . The parents educated their children at home in practical pursuits and prepared them to become functioning adults in their communities. The court held that accommodating the parents’ religious objections by forgoing one or two additional years of compulsory education would not impair the physical or mental health of the child, result in an inability to be self-supporting or to discharge the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, or in any other way materially detract from societal welfare.

  • Advocates: John W. Calhoun Argued the cause for the petitioner William B. Ball Argued the cause for the respondents
  • Petitioner: Wisconsin
  • Respondent: Yoder
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Wisconsin State Capitol
Citation: 406 US 205 (1972)
Argued: Dec 8, 1971
Decided: May 15, 1972
Wisconsin v. Yoder Case Brief