Wisconsin v. Yoder at 50: Still Here, Still Relevant

For BYU Law’s Wednesday Law Forum on October 19, 2022, we welcomed Professor Richard W. Garnett of Notre Dame Law School, a leading authority on the role of religious believers and beliefs in politics and society. Professor Garnett presented themes from the 1972 case Wisconsin v. Yoder, in which the US Supreme Court found that forcing Amish children to attend public high school violated their parents’ free exercise of religion. He explored how many of the arguments articulated in both the majority and dissenting opinions in this 50-year-old case still resonate today as the court continues to grapple with balancing state interests and Constitutional religious freedoms. Among the many questions Yoder raised that continue to be debated today: “How is a religion defined?”; “What constitutes government neutrality toward religion?”; “What level of burden on the practice of religion is required for exemption from a law?”; “Does burdening a community’s exercise of their religion carry more weight than burdening an individual’s religious rights?”; “Do parental rights have equal gravitas when it comes to educational exemptions for their children?”; “What of children’s rights, which were not at issue in Yoder?” Professor Garnett foresees the court revisiting many of these issues in the future. “Stay tuned,” he says.

Comments (0)

Leave a Comment