Can Your Religion Get You Out of School? | Wisconsin v. Yoder


Mr. Beat presents Supreme Court Briefs Green County, Wisconsin
September 1968 Three Amish students from three different families stop going to school at New Glarus High School. They were Frieda Yoder, age 15. Barbara Miller, also age 15, and Vernon Yutzy, age 14. But in Green County, not going to school if you were under the age of 16 was illegal. The school district tried to get them to go, but the parents said “no man, our kids are no longer going to school due to our religious beliefs.” Green County didn’t care if it was their religious beliefs or not. It fined the parents $5 for breaking the county’s compulsory-attendance law. Yeah. That will show them. Wait, just $5? Anyway, the parents argued it was Amish tradition to not enroll their kids in public school after 8th grade. In general, there are two reasons for this. One is practicality. Amish teenagers generally need to begin learning a trade after 8th grade and public high schools usually don’t offer adequate training for them. The second reason? The Amish tend to see high schools and colleges as institutions that might promote ideas that go against their traditional Christian values and hurt their chances at going to heaven, yo. Jonas Yoder, the father of Frieda, represented the parents in court, but the Amish generally don’t like going to court to settle disputes. Therefore, a Lutheran minister named William Lindholm took an interest in their case and decided to help them fight, as he believed the county’s compulsory-attendance law went against the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. They appealed to the Wisconsin Circuit Court, who agreed with the lower court, so they appealed again to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, who agreed with Yoder and the rest, overturning the decision. The Wisconsin Supreme Court said that the state of Wisconsin couldn’t show that having an educational system for all its citizens was more important than the Amish families’ rights to practice their religion freely. Wisconsin was like, “oh yeah? Fine. We’re appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States, so what up now?” I’ll tell you what up now. They kept on fighting and the Court agreed to take on the case, hearing oral arguments on December 8, 1971. The two things at odds with each other were religious freedom versus compulsory education. Yoder argued that high school threatened his Amish way of life. Wisconsin argued that some Amish kids may decide to leave the Amish faith after they reach adulthood, and so therefore a public school education through high school was necessary so they could more easily adapt to the “real world.” If the kids were 2 or 3 or 4 years older, then it wouldn’t be an issue, because they’d be considered adults who could choose whatever religion they wanted. So was Wisconsin violating the kids’ First Amendment rights by forcing them to go to school? The Court said “yes.” On May 15, 1972, they announced they sided with Yoder. It was unanimous, although Justice William Douglas gave a partial dissent. But yeah, the Court said the 14th Amendment was applicable to the states in this case, and that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment DID protect the Amish parents’ right to take their kids out of school, even though they were under 16. Now, the Court did say that not all belief systems are protected by that Clause. If someone had a crazy belief system that severely harmed these children, that’s a different story, but the Amish way of life had been around for three centuries and they were Christians, after all. The Court also said there was no evidence that two more years in high school would make these kids any more prepared for the real world or any more of a burden on society. The partial dissent from Douglas was remembering the children, man. “I agree with the Court that the religious scruples of the Amish are opposed to the education of their children beyond the grade schools, yet I disagree with the Court’s conclusion that the matter is within the dispensation of parents alone… On this important and vital matter of education, I think the children should be entitled to be heard.” The rest of the court responded by basically saying “Dude, this is about the parents and the state. Why are you bringing the kids up?” Wisconsin v. Yoder further protected the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. It is often THE case brought up defending a parent’s right to homeschool their kids. However, parents can’t just take their kids out of school and teach them some wacky ideology or philosophy. The Court was specific. It was only ok if it was a well established religion that was consistent historically about the reasoning for taking the kids out school in the first place. I’ll see you for the next Supreme Court case, jury! So what do YOU think about this case? Do you agree with the Court on this one? And if there is just one Supreme Court case that you think is important that I have yet to cover for this series let me know below. (other than Plessy v. Ferguson. I will get to that again.) A shout out to my Patreon supporters If you see their name next to me, that means they donate at least $5 or more to me a month. And a special shout out as I do every month, to my Patreon supporters who donate at least $10 or more a month. Elcaspar, Jojo’s Dogtail, Matt Standish Sean Conant, Piller Stiller Bahn Ruthington Unnamed Muffin, Cjkavy Kenneth, Chris Prall Eric B Wolman and Chris. Thank you guys for your generous support. It means SO much. And thank YOU for watching. Oh yeah, and I’m taking next week off. It’ll be ok.

100 comments

  1. If NJ didn't have compulsory education,the famous Jersey Shore bars and the rental industry would be out of business as most of the wardens spend their summer there.

  2. I've noticed every dissent has at least one word which is not used in everyday English. Or perhaps it is the stentorian voice which Mr. Beat reads them that makes the comments more vituperative #gothesaurus

  3. I heard that the same kinda thing happenned with social security. The government made rules that allow Amish and Mennonite people to get out of it, but not many other people.

  4. love this one mr and mrs beat…myself going to private school learned more AT home than at the sooo called system…everyday is a process of learning for myself…you two be good and great..cheers my friends

  5. Man, this is a tough issue. I personally am not religious, but understand the conflict of compelled public schooling would deteriorate future generations of a certain religion. Tough call.

  6. Do you agree with the Supreme Court in this case?
    What is the most important Supreme Court case, other than Plessy v. Ferguson, that I have yet to cover with this series?

  7. With the debate over executive power and separation of powers recently regarding the border wall, could you do an episode on Youngstown Sheet and Tube v Sawyer(1952.)
    Justice Robert Jackson's concurrence set the modern framework for sep of powers and I know you mentioned before that you're a big Truman fan.

  8. What if your religion calls for no piblic schoola at all? Also, freedom to practice religion can be seen as an outgrowth of the general right to live life as you so choose, so wouldn't this also apply to taking kids out of school to be farmers? If it doesn't apply to that to, why does religion get a special privilege, why does belief in the supernatural mean you get more freedom to choose how you or your kids live?

  9. I know that this might not be a popular opinion, but I agree with the Amish to rather teach their children a trade than give a useless highschool degree.

  10. Ladies and gentlemen, believe in Allaahu, make none His compeer and follow His revelation Al-Qur'aanu (arabic: القرآن). Allaahu (arabic: اَللَََّهُ) is one of God's names that we can find in the Qur'aan. There is no God except Allaahu. Verily Allaahu, He is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him. If you like to see or read the Qur'aan Mushaf al-imaam (arabic: مصحف الإمام ), here can you do it, if Allaahu wants: https://archive.org/stream/Al-mushaf-Al-Imam/al-mushaf-al-Imam#page/n0/mode/1up
    —-
    Do good, don't be evil !
    لا إله إلا الله !
    إن الله هو ربي وربكم فاعبدوه !

  11. I strongly disagree with the supreme court here. The future of the children shouldnt be destroyed because of thr belive of the partents. The argument that because it is a well estebled religious institution is quite weak.

  12. Well, had it been me, I would have said that the children should have had the final say.
    As for the court case, I got to bring Conn. vs. Teal back up again…

  13. It seems like the Amish would need to prove that high schools and colleges are actually teaching something that goes against their religious beliefs in order to justify not attending for religious reasons. Plenty of other Christians are educated without their beliefs being destroyed.

  14. Funny side note: Years ago, I used to live near Abbeville, SC where there's a ton of Yoders, except they were Mennonites, not Amish. We were friends with one of the women. After the 'community' had finished building her new house, she invited us over for dinner, along with some of her Mennonite friends. She waited for her friends to leave so she could show us her TV that was hidden behind a panel in the wall. (Yes, hidden because she wasn't supposed to have one.) She asked us not to tell anyone! But, honestly, who were we going to tell?

  15. I know that my generation ridiculed the study of other religions (Religious Studies) when we were school age, but I believe that understanding what other religions preach (not necessarily practicing them) is useful if we're going to get rid of this world of religious hatred and mistrust we live in at the moment. The inspiration for this is the Simpsons episode Homer the Heretic. The message it gives is it fine for people to practice religions, whichever they may be, but not to force those beliefs on others. The beauty of the message is that it is delivered in a way that doesn't emphasise one religion over another, a reference to the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the Constitution

  16. You forgot to say that the smallest Yoder (or Yoda in Galactic Basic) went on to become a Jedi Master by 1980 and didn't really need high school anyhow. (Although high school English might have gotten him out of his object-subject-verb anastrophe.

  17. It takes a lot for me to disagree with the Supreme Court, because I have tremendous respect for the institution and the advanced education and experience of the Justices. However, there are some cases that I have to take issue with; Korematsu v. United States, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, etc. I also disagree in this case, on the grounds that the First Amendment rights of the children were not and to this day are not considered, essentially giving the parents complete control over the child's education, personal beliefs, and state of mind. A parent can subject their children to whatever they like as long as they can spin it on religious grounds, regardless of how it impacts the child or their ability to function in a civilized, secular, and multicultural society. Children are human beings, and we should be treating them as such, not as animals or objects that we are free to treat however we wish.

  18. I can't think of anything I learned in school between the beginning of grade 9 and the end of grade 12 that has been useful in life. Maybe Hunter Safety but I think basic training covered the most important parts to a greater extent. In fact some of the things I learned were the antithesis of what I later learned at university.

  19. To answer the question one of the most important cases you have not covered is Clinton v City of New York regarding the use of a line item veto and the presentment clause.

  20. A great video but terrible decision. All children should be required 12 years of public education, as well as private and parochial schools, should be banned. These contribute to either the idiocracy of substandard education or further increase the wealth gap by allowing for the rich to provide separate schools letting the public schools to languish. It is the responsibility of the citizens to be educated and participate in democracy.

  21. Aw man, ONE day too late. My kids took a test on this case yesterday. I mean, not JUST this case. Whatever. I always loved the $5 part of the story. Shows some real pluck on the part of the Amish. Peace in the Middle East, bruh.

  22. We should have that decision overturned… the Amish religion is clearly detrimental to the children. What the Amish are doing is purposefully dumbing their children to make more difficult for them to leave their religion. It’s a classic behavioral strategy of cults. Make them into sheep, and they will obey the shepherd.

  23. Yay! I love Supreme Court Briefs! I enjoy them so much. Thank you for always putting so much effort into your videos. It means a lot that you take the time to do this. On a side note, your Brown v. Board of Education video inspired me to use the topic for an informative speech I have to give (and use your video as a source)!
    Additionally, I hope you enjoy your week off!

  24. First time commenter here! Love the series and since everyone's doing suggestions, I suggest the first cases where the Supreme Court deals when the defendant isn't a person, organization, company or a state. It's just a bunch of stuff. I'm talking of course, the "In Rem" cases. Where it's the United States vs Your stuff.

  25. The supreme court was dead wrong.
    They favor the religious beliefs of the parents over the welfare of the minors.
    The purpose of compulsory education is to give young people tools that their parents might not be willing or able to give them.

  26. This is absolutely ridiculous. If it is compulsory, it's compulsory. Wasting tax dollars just to say that "MUH RELIGION ALLOWS ME TO TAKE THEM OUT OF SCHOOL" is ridiculous.

  27. Sweet. I live 10 minutes south of New Glarus. We talked about this case quite in depth in our high school civics class.

  28. Firstly, your viewers should know honest facts
    Israeli Arabs prefer living under the sovereign Israel Democracy. They have freedom of opportunity.
    For those Arabs wanting to murder Israeli people in cold blooded murder ( as any free country would) Israel must protect its citizens
    Since the UN is biased to Arab causes, therefore to solve Gaza poverty and Arab manipulation by the present leadership the U S would have come in and create a new infrastructure of life needs there where the children would not be victims to Jew Hatred by the Hamas leadership
    By the way Hamas still has their Jew Hatred covenant in tact
    I believe that the” Man in the street “ in Gaza wants a decent life . US must create a proper democracy there . Money goes to create a new free beginning . This would a a few generations to take .
    No more shooting rockets launched in residential areas or from hospitals to kill Israelis . No more secret bank accounts held by Hamas leaders maybe once the US would take over for 20 years , the people there would get the ideas of decent living not ever concern themselves with Israel affairs . Of course Israel would even wish to assist the development of a free Gaza
    90 % of the Iranian people want freedom but a too afraid to rebel as are the Gazens

  29. Really Interesting! I normally don't watch history videos at 11:02 PM 👏 but only for Mr. Beat will I make an exception

  30. Suggestions:
    Beijing vs Shanghai
    Mumbai vs New Delhi
    Kyoto and Tokyo
    Melbourne vs Sydney
    France vs England
    Indonesia vs Malaysia
    Japan vs South Korea

  31. There seems to be a certain kind of case going on or where a couple of states have been suing the president over declare a national emergency on the border wall funding has there been a Supreme Court case like this if so is that going to be the next episode?

  32. Brasil is still waiting for a video on us Mr. Beat!!!💚💛👊

    P.S. Wisconsin sound like the middle of nowhere, I bet its cold as hell there. Why not tropical Brasil!

  33. it's crazy that there is still amish people out in the world. I see them quite often and it still shocks me every time

  34. School is nothing but a government institution (like jail). I dont think Americans should be forced to attend any government institution

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