Wisconsin v. Yoder Case Brief

Summary of Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)

Facts: State of Wisconsin required 3 members of Amish community to keep their children in public school until 16 years old. Amish refused b/c under their religion children 14-16 are at risk of losing salvation, face censure in their church community, and endanger the salvation of their parents. Their religious values are contrary to those taught in public high school.

Issue(s): Whether WI’s compulsory attendance law regarding children under 16 years of age is in conflict with the free exercise of the Amish community?

Holding: Yes, the state is barred by the 1st and 14th from intruding into family decisions relating to the area of religious training by compelling children under 16 to attend public high school.

Procedure: All 3 were convicted under WI criminal compulsory attendance law. S Ct WI Reversed. U.S.S.Ct Affirmed.

Rule(s): 1st and 14th Amend.

Rationale: It is inescapable that exposing Amish children to worldly influences would substantially interfere with their religious development at a crucial stage of adolescence. That conclusion is in opposition with the religious practices of the Amish faith, for both parents and children.

Amish are not opposed to education beyond eighth grade, just the conventional form of education beyond the eighth grade being offered b/c of the stage of religious development in the child’s life.

WI’s support for its interest is highly speculative and lacks specific evid. WI’s interest in compelling attendance to these children is less substantial than requiring the same attendance for children in general.

WI is free to enact compulsory attendance laws that have a general application, and the state has the power to enact Rble standards, w/o impairing the free exercise of religion, for the supplemental education provided to children under 16.

DISSENT: This case involves the freedom to exercise religious beliefs of parents and children, but the Court holds that the parents can vindicate their free exercise claims and their children’s.

Pl’s A: (WI) State Int: provide compulsory high school education–which prepares individuals to be self-reliant and self-sufficient members of society. State’s interest is supported b/c of the possibility that some Amish children will leave the community.

Df’s A: (Amish) An additional one or two years of high school will accomplish little toward the state’s interest in light of the vocational training the children rec’v w/i the Amish community.



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