Legal Principle at Issue
Whether Wisconsins compulsory school-attendance law (which requires a childs school attendance until age 16) violates the Free Exercise rights of Amish who declined for religious reasons to send their children to public or private school after they had graduated from the eighth grade.
Affirmed (includes modified). Petitioning party did not receive a favorable disposition.
Respondents, members of the Old Order Amish religion and the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were convicted of violating Wisconsin's compulsory school attendance law (which requires a child's school attendance until age 16) by declining to send their children to public or private school after they had graduated from the eighth grade. The evidence showed that the Amish provide continuing informal vocational education to their children designed to prepare them for life in the rural Amish community. The evidence also showed that respondents sincerely believed that high school attendance was contrary to the Amish religion and way of life, and that they would endanger their own salvation and that of their children by complying with the law. The State Supreme Court sustained respondents' claim that application of the compulsory school attendance law to them violated their rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.