Facts: The respondents practiced the Amish and Mennonite religions and argued that sending their children to public school after the eighth grade violated their religious beliefs and threatened their religious way of life. Statute said they have to send their kids to school until 16.
Issue: Does this statute violate the 1st and 14th? Yes.
- Rule: A regulation neutral on its face may, in its application, nonetheless offend the constitutional requirement for governmental neutrality if it unduly burdens the free exercise of religion.
- Defendants also claimed that sending their children to high school is against their Amish beliefs because high school enforces individualism and competition instead of community-ism; goodness instead of intellect… They claim that enforcing this statute would destroy their Amish community.
- Why is their not a problem with them sending their kids to school through junior high school? Because they understand that basic skills are necessary, but when they reach high school, their religion is threatened.
- The trial court determined that the compulsory attendance does interfere with the religious beliefs, but that school is necessary to be in society and also so that these children will grow up to be productive members of society, so the interference is reasonable.
- SCt says that Amish are good citizens and also that considering their way of life, the community hands-on training they get those two years prepares them more for their adult life than would high school.
- Balancing act: Duty to educate vs. Parents right to bring children up with religious belief.
- Wisconsin didn’t prove that the extra 2 years of school would serve a state interest.
will Amish way of life be protected but a philosophical or personal
belief would not be? Because the freedom of religion protects
religion, not a personal belief. Here, the Amish way of life has
been like this for a hundred years and enforcing this statute could
affect the entire Amish way of life. A way of life, however
virtuous and admirable, may not be interposed as a barrier to
reasonable state regulation of education if it is based on purely
secular considerations; to have the protection of the Religion
Clauses of the United States Constitution, the claims must be
rooted in religious belief.