Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Haiman, F. S. (2003). Religious Expression and the American Constitution. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press.

Kraybill, D. B. (2003). The Amish and the State. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Peters, S. F. (2003). The Yoder Case. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.

Urofsky, M. I. (2002). Religious Freedom: Rights and Liberties under the Law. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc.

Wood, J. E. (1990). The First Freedom: Religion and the Bill of Rights. Waco: J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies.


Photograph Citations:

Recruitment Poster:


CPS Crew Building a Ditch:


Elderly Amish:


Amish Farmers:


Amish Schoolchildren:


Amish Children:



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Wisconsin v. Yoder

Amish Schoolchildren

The Amish believe that their children should only attend school through the eighth grade. They also believe that their children should only attend school with other Amish children, which is why they are adamantly against sending them to public schools.  The Amish believe formal education is dangerous because it may influence members to explore other options besides being Amish. In addition, they believe if their children interact with non-Amish children they might be persuaded to leave the Amish. In the United States, education through age sixteen is compulsory, which normally means through sophomore year of high school. Between the 1930s and 1960s many conflicts arose between the Amish and the government over this issue. In several states, Amish parents who refused to send their kids to school past eighth grade were arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and many of them had their children removed from their care (Kraybill, 2003).

In 1962, ten Amish parents in Indiana were arrested for not sending their children to schools that had certified teachers, because in Amish communities the teachers are not state certified. All ten parents were fined or given jail time. This same scenario took place multiple times throughout Indiana and other states. As a whole, the Amish fought back and refused to pay any fees they were assigned for failing to send their children to public schools.  However, until 1972 the only outcome of this action was more fines and more jail time (Urofsky, 2002).

The Amish believe that under the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment they are guaranteed the right to not send their children to public schools. Although the court systems agreed that they had this right, the issue still remained that at Amish schools the teachers were not state certified. This meant that the government did not accept attending Amish schools as a viable alternative to public schools, because instructors at private schools must still obtain state certification. The issue also remained that Amish schools only educate children through eighth grade. However, in 1972 a group of Amish fathers in Wisconsin brought an appeal against their state (Peters, 2003).

Amish Children

Attorneys for the state of Wisconsin argued that if Amish children only received education through the eighth grade, they would never have the possibility of surviving economically in the outside world if they ever decided to leave the community. The Amish fathers argued that education past eight grade and attendance at public schools would distract their children from their religion and put them in severe danger of losing their salvation (Kraybill, 2003). In a landmark decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in favor of the fathers in Wisconsin v. Yoder. The United States Supreme Court upheld this decision and made it legal for all Amish throughout the country to have their own education systems (Peters, 2003).

The goal of this movement was for the Amish to be able to educate their children in a way that they believed was best for their religious well-being. The final outcome of this movement was that the Supreme Court declared that the Amish are allowed to operate their own school systems and do not have to follow the compulsory education laws that other citizens do (Urofsky, 2002). This affected the Amish in a very positive way because the idea of sending their children to public schools caused them much distress. The ruling in Wisconsin v. Yoder affected the Amish’s right to self-determination in a positive way by allowing them to practice their religious beliefs about education without being fined or jailed.

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Eldery Amish

The Amish believe that it is their responsibility as a community to take care of the elderly and disabled within their community. They believe they are capable of providing for the people in their communities with special needs and they have strict belief in keeping themselves separate from the outside world. The Amish believe they should pay taxes as long as they do not violate their religious beliefs, so they pay property taxes, general income taxes, and sales taxes willingly. However, they believe that paying Social Security taxes is a violation of their religious beliefs because they believe it is the responsibility of the people within their community to provide for elderly and disabled members. Social Security taxes are compulsory in the United States and the IRS is legally allowed to seize property from any citizen that does not pay them, which is precisely what the IRS began doing to many Amish people in the 1950s (Kraybill, 2003).

In 1962, eighty Amish men traveled to Washington, D.C. to appeal to legislators to pass a law exempting the Amish from Social Security taxes. The Department of Health Education and Welfare sent out a response stating that if the Amish were allowed to have exemption from the Social Security tax, then other groups would want to be exempt as well  (Wood, 1990). The IRS suggested a compromise in which the Amish would pay Social Security taxes, but when it came time for them to receive the benefits they would be paid back in monthly amounts only until they had received the exact amount they had originally paid. The Amish rejected this compromise because they felt that they would be violating their religious convictions because they would still be receiving money back from the government, which they believe is wrong. In light of this rejection the IRS agreed to allow self-employed Amish to be exempt from Social Security taxes (Kraybill, 2003).

Amish Farmers

However, the struggle for exemption for all Amish people continued. In 1982, an Amish man named Edwin Lee, who had employees working on his farm for which he refused to pay the employer’s share of Social Security taxes, brought his appeal to the United States Supreme Court. Lee argued that the First Amendment protected his right to be exempt from the tax since it violated his religious beliefs (Urofsky, 2002). The Court originally ruled in his favor, but the decision was later reversed (Kraybill, 2003).

The goal of this movement was to obtain exemption from Social Security taxes for all Amish people; however this goal was only partially achieved. Despite this, the movement was still important because it was successful in obtaining exemption for self-employed Amish, which is a large portion of the Amish population. The 1965 decision to exempt self-employed Amish affected the Amish’s right to self-determination positively because it allowed them to adhere to their religious convictions about government services without being in conflict with the IRS. The case of United States v. Lee did not have the final outcome the Amish had desired.  After the original decision was reversed, the court has since remained adamant that all non-self-employed Amish must continue paying Social Security taxes. This had a negative effect on the Amish and their right to self-determination because it causes some Amish to have to violate their religious beliefs or be in a predicament with the IRS.

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Recruitment Poster

The Amish are strict pacifists and have a religious objection to war. Early in American history this was not an immense problem for the Amish because during the Revolutionary War the penalty for not enlisting in the army was merely to pay extra taxes, and during the Civil War the penalty was to pay a three-hundred dollar fee.  Most Amish paid these fees willingly in order to avoid military service. During World War I the American government gave out many farm deferments to the Amish, which helped most of them avoid the draft. However, when America became involved in World War II the Amish faced a much tougher battle when it came to avoiding military service.  Although draft boards in Pennsylvania still handed out farm deferments to the Amish in their state, several other states no longer offered the deferments (Kraybill, 2003).

Although the drafted Amish could have applied for Conscientious Objector statuses, there was no guarantee they would be granted them. The Amish, along with Quakers and Mennonites, decided there needed to be federal legislation in place deferring them permanently from military service. They believed they should be granted permanent deferral because they believed the First Amendment of the Constitution protected their right to practice their religion freely. The First Amendment of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (Haiman, 2003). The Amish believed that since pacification is a part of their religion they should be able to practice it without government interference. The Amish believe that being involved in a war of any kind is a sin and believe if they participate in wars they will be punished by God.  Faced with the possibility of being jailed for not complying with their drafts during World War II, the Amish, Quakers, and Mennonites began lobbying for a program they called “alternative service”.

After lobbying diligently for their cause, the Amish won a substantial victory when an alternative service clause was attached to the 1940 Draft Act.  The 1940 Draft Act was signed into law by the president on September 16, 1940. The alternative service clause permanently granted the Amish and members of other churches with similar beliefs special exemption from military service.

CPS Crew Building a Ditch

The outcome of the alternative service clause in the 1940 Draft Act was that the Amish were allowed to serve in the Civilian Public Service (CPS) instead of serving in the military. This allowed Amish men to do humanitarian work instead of being involved in combat or manufacturing weapons, which had been their goal from the start. This affected the right of the Amish to self-determination positively because it allowed them to adhere to their pacifist convictions without being persecuted by the government during times of war. The Draft Act of 1940 was extremely important to the Amish because their foremost goal in life is to live in a way that will allow them to go to heaven when they die, and they believe that if they participate in the military they will not be able to reach that goal (Kraybill, 2003).

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