Respondents Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller are members of the Amish Church and respondent Adin Yutzy is a member of the Mennonite Church. They were charged, tried and convicted of violating the compulsory-attendance law because they did not enroll their children in a public or private high school.
The court is reviewing the decision of the Wisconsin Supreme Court holding that the respondents’ sentences of violating the compulsory-school attendance law were invalid under the Free Exercise Clause.
The court states that, “the First and Fourteenth Amendments prevent the State from compelling respondents to cause their children to attend formal high school to age 16.
- Rule: “Only the interests of the highest order of the state can overbalance sincere claims to the free exercise of religion.”
The state’s interest in education is not free from a considering process when it might impose on rights that are specified in the Free Exercise Clause.
The court’s decision has declined the concept that all religiously based practices are outside of the protection of the Free Exercise Clause. The State says that their interest in education is so powerful that even the Amish community has to abide by these rules. The State has two arguments as to why their interest in education should overpower the Amish’s practices. First, education is essential to prepare young adults to take part in our political system efficiently. Second, education prepares young adults to be independent and “self-sufficient” members of society. The court agrees with the State. But, they also say that the Amish community does an equally good job to prepare their children for life. The State says that the Amish are being “ignorant” by not sending their children to high school, but the court says that the Amish have been a very successful community. The Amish are law-abiding citizens and they are productive. Congress even recognizes their independence by allowing this community to be exempt from social security taxes. The State argues that if these Amish children choose to leave their community, they will not be equipped with the right education to live in a modern society. The court says differently. The Amish are skilled in agriculture and are very “self-reliant”. The court finds that they would not become a burden because of all the training and skills they possess. The Amish community has been around for over 200 years, which suggests that they are capable of raising and teaching their own children responsibly after eight grades.