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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, once a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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Dec 10, 2018

In one of the most famous religious freedom Supreme Court cases, Jonas Yoder, a member of the Old Order Amish, challenged the state of Wisconsin’s law requiring students to attend school through the age of 16. Learn more at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Jonas Yoder was a member of the Old Order Amish living in the State of Wisconsin.  Yoder and others lived carefully according to their religious tradition, in community with other Amish and away from the influence of the modern world.

After the eighth grade, Old Order Amish schoolchildren do not continue to high school where much is taught in variance with their Amish way of life.  Instead, the children return to the home where they are instilled with the virtues of goodness, wisdom, and community welfare by their family. 

But these families ran into a problem as they sought to live out the religion that had motivated their families since the 16thcentury: the State of Wisconsin required students to attend school through at least the high school age of 16.

Yoder’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States that held that the State of Wisconsin could not compel these Amish families to send their children to high school.  According to the court, “only those interests of the highest order and those not otherwise served can overbalance legitimate claims to the free exercise of religion.”

Wisconsin v. Yoder, was among the first cases that helped articulate an important balancing test that weighed a state’s interest in governing against an individual’s right to the free exercise of religion. 

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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