Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972)

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WISCONSIN v. YODER 406 U.S. 205 (1972)

Wisconsin's school-leaving age was sixteen. Members of the Old Order Amish religion declined, on religious grounds, to send their children to school beyond the eighth grade. Wisconsin chose to force the issue, and counsel for the Amish defendants replied that while the requirement might be valid as to others, the free exercise clause of the first amendment required exemption in the case of the Amish.

Chief Justice warren e. burger, speaking for the Supreme Court, was much impressed by the Amish way of life. He rejected Wisconsin's argument that belief but not action was protected by the free exercise clause, and cited sherbert v. verner (1963). Nor was the Chief Justice convinced by the state's assertion of a compelling state interest. Nothing indicated that Amish children would suffer from the lack of high school education. Burger stressed that the Amish would have lost had they based their claim on "subjective evaluations and rejections of the contemporary social values accepted by the majority."

Justice byron r. white filed a concurring opinion in which Justices william j. brennan and potter stewart joined. White found the issue in Yoder much closer than Burger. White pointed out that many Amish children left the religious fold upon attaining their majority and had to make their way in the larger world like everyone else.

Justice william o. douglas dissented in part. He saw the issue as one of children ' srights in which Frieda Yoder's personal feelings and desires should be determinative. Justice Stewart, joined by Justice Brennan, filed a brief concurrence which took issue with Douglas on this point, and noted that there was nothing in the record which indicated that the religious beliefs of the children in the case differed in any way from those of the parents.

Richard E. Morgan

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Wisconsin v. Yoder 406 U.S. 205 (1972)

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