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Volume 24 • Number 4

October 2010




by Christian Fernández

In a famous U.S. court case from 1972, Wisconsin v. Yoder (406 U.S. 205), three families, members of the Old Order Amish religion and the Conservative Amish Mennonite Church, were taken to court by the State of Wisconsin. By removing their children from school at the age of fourteen, the parents of the three families had refused to obey the state’s mandatory school enrollment law that compels children to stay in school until the age of sixteen. Further education in common schools would present their children with too much exposure to the “evil world,” they argued. The parents were convicted by the state of violating Wisconsin’s compulsory school attendance law. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that high school attendance constituted a “serious barrier to the integration of the Amish child into the Amish religious community” and that the Wisconsin compulsory school attendance law did “interfere with the freedom of the Defendants to act in accordance with their sincere religious belief” (Wisconsin v. Yoder 1972, pp. 212­225). The court ruled in favor of the three Amish families, albeit not unanimously.

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ISSN: 2152-0542