While reading through and evaluating the Wisconsin versus Yoder case document, the statement reflecting the US Supreme Court’s decision was irritating, ignorant, and representative of another failure of the American justice system. Three statements, in particular, stood out as frustrating and illogical.
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The US Supreme Court’s first point alone was already a bad start: they expressed their disagreement with the original conclusion of the smaller court. In the New Glarus, Wisconsin court, the religious rights of the Amish were addressed but it was decided that the state’s compulsory attendance law was within reason and should be upheld.
Once the Supreme Court got a hold of the case, they were not happy that . . .
. . . the attendance law was more respected than the parents’ freedom of religion (while simultaneously completely disregarding the children’s freedom of religion rights).
Comment #1: The free exercise clause in the first amendment and the fourteenth amendment
In their first point, the Supreme Court used the free exercise clause in the first amendment and the fourteenth amendment to back their decision. The free exercise clause states that citizens have the right to practice their religion however they please as long as it respects social morals and government interests. Making this claim essentially means that the best outcome for educationally restricted children does not interfere with American morals or political legislation. It’s important to note that the young population directly affected by this case was not consulted or engaged in the matters of the conversation.
Additionally, the fourteenth amendment, also cited by them, basically gives equal protection and respect to citizens under the law, and no state is allowed to overstep these equities. This is ironic considering those same rights are given to all people born or brought up in the United States, but the younger end of this religious community is not given equal opportunity to be educated and make their own choices because, according to this case, their religious restrictions and the will of the adults are more important than their education.
Comment #2: Attention-grabbing for all the wrong reasons
Although the Supreme Court had a ton of points explaining their ruling, number five was also attention-grabbing for all the wrong reasons. They presented the argument that generationally, the Amish have been known for their peace with the land they live on and nature in general, and they chose to relate it to the earlier, simpler days when Christianity ruled the will of those who built up America. Following this, they claimed that the Amish “require” their members to follow agricultural or related occupations, and they also stated that this is alright because the outdated views which determine the projection of lives in this community have been around for so long.
Rumspringa is also loosely addressed at this point within their mention of adult baptism, insisting that this is a voluntary choice to dedicate their lives to specifically the Amish Church (not any other religion or version of Christianity). It’s somewhat difficult to fault them for this claim because those passing this case presumably had little to no knowledge of how Amish communities were actually run. Contributing to this, those advocating for the Amish in this case did not share much factual information or true cultural background as to how restricting and harmful these practices are.
The Supreme Court justices should have done more thorough research about the reality of these communities because, without any true conceptualization or examples of their destruction, it is difficult to justify withholding their freedom of religious practices. It is incredibly frustrating that those in charge did not conduct a thorough investigation of the seemingly peaceful and harmless claims made about the Amish. And they had, and their predecessors still have, no clue how much Amish children are negatively affected by the passing of this case.
Point #3: A massive explanation in the face of a massive display of irony
A third point that caught my eye was number twenty-five in the Supreme Court’s massive explanation for allowing Wisconsin versus Yoder to pass. This is where they elaborate on the main arguments supporting the adherence to the Compulsory Attendance Law. The bulk of this point addresses a quote by Thomas Jefferson essentially stating that if America truly desires the preservation of freedom and independence, then it is crucial for everyone to be educated. In order to fuel the system, according to Jefferson, citizens must be intelligent and prepared to take part in politics and be able to advocate for themselves and their communities. The Supreme Court claims for themselves that it’s necessary for people to be competent and autonomous, which education forms, to participate in American society.
The Supreme Court’s last statement under this point merely says that they accept the understanding and truth within those statements. In another display of irony, the Supreme Court acknowledges that people need a sufficient educational background in order to keep up and actively participate in society. However, they still approved a case that intentionally restricted a child’s education, knowingly holding them back on a larger scale, to appease the desire of those in charge to prevent social exposure and higher knowledge.
Regarding teachers and the average intelligence of 8th-grade graduates from Amish communities, it would seem that nothing was thoroughly investigated and elaborated on. Even lacking information on that subject alone, the court still decided to continue a cycle of insufficient education while fully understanding the detrimental effects of such a curriculum.
The case document as a whole was founded on ignorance and incomprehension, but the final statement and ruling on this case was a bold display of the faults within the justice system. Wisconsin versus Yoder, at the very least, offers a great example of how being uneducated on a topic can have major consequences.
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