Wisconsin Vs Yoder The Case of Wisconsin vs. Yoder (Docket #70-110) goes back to the year 1972. Jonas Yoder and Wallace Miller were both members of the Amish religion. Adin Yutzy, also prosecuted under the Wisconsin law, represented the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church. The reason for prosecution was because there was a law that stated all children must attend public school until the age of sixteen.
The three parents, all being Amish, refused to obey such a law and pulled their children out of school after the 8th grade. Their argument was that the high school attendance was contrary to their religious beliefs. The state of Wisconsin disagreed and challenged this case to the United States Supreme Court. The basic constitutional amendment that is being argued here is the freedom of religion. The case was argued on December 8, 1971 and was eventually decided on May 15, 1972.
Each side had a perfectly good reason as to why they were right. The defense, (represented as being Yoder), said that the law basically threatens their religious way of life. In their opinion, the only teachings they needed were that of what they had already received up until the 8th grade. They also said that Amish parents provide training from an early age through young adults, teaching them the skills necessary to be farmers, or other skills, i.e., carpenters and parents. This training supposedly prepares them for a much better life as an Amish adult than what they would receive in formal schooling. On the states side, however, their views were much different.
The state was simply enforcing a law that requires children be enrolled in school until the age of sixteen. The states other argument was that the extra schooling prepared the children for adult life. In response the defendants found it unnecessary and unjust. The state came back with the question of what will happen to the children if they leave their Amish community. In a 6-to-1 decision, the Court decided that the individual’s interest in the free exercise of religion under the First Amendment outweighed the State’s interests in convincing school attendance past 8th grade.
The Court found that the values and programs of secondary school were in sharp conflict with the fundamental mode of life mandated by the Amish religion, and that an additional one or two years of high school would not produce the benefits of public education cited by Wisconsin to justify the law. In the opinion of Chief Justice Burger: The Amish have a legitimate reason for removing their children from school prior to their attending high school. The qualities emphasized higher education (self-distinction, competitiveness, scientific accomplishment, etc.) are contrary to Amish values. Additionally, attendance in high school hinders the Amish community by depriving them of the labor of their children and limiting their ability to instill appropriate values in their adolescents. A state’s interest in universal education must be balanced against the legitimate claims of special groups of people.
The State cites two interests in compulsory education: to create a citizenry to participate in our political system and to prepare self-supportive people. The Court agrees with the Amish that an additional one or two years of education will not significantly affect either of these interests.