Child Care Licensing

A court ruled that requirements do not violate the First Amendment.

Church Law and Tax 1991-01-01 Recent Developments


The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a state law requiring church-operated child care facilities to be licensed by the state did not violate the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom. A child care facility operated by a Baptist church applied for state licenses from 1974 through 1978. However, in 1979, the church informed the state that it no longer wanted its preschool licensed. The church claimed that the licensing requirement violated its religious beliefs. The church also objected to administrative rules adopted by the state that (1) required preschool directors to be accredited by the state, (2) required preschools to teach specified courses that conflicted with the church’s religious beliefs, and (3) prohibited corporal punishment. When the church continued operating the preschool without a license, the state sought a court order prohibiting the preschool from operating. The church countered by claiming that the licensing requirement violated its constitutional rights. A trial court ruled that the church preschool was subject to the licensing requirement, and the church appealed. The state supreme court agreed that the state had the authority to require church-operated preschools to be licenses. It also upheld the state rule prohibiting corporal punishment. However, the court agreed with the church that the program curriculum requirements and director-accreditation rules were invalid. In rejecting the church’s constitutional arguments with respect to state licensure and corporal punishment, the court acknowledged that the church was opposed to licensure on the basis of fundamental religious doctrine. The court noted that the church viewed state licensure of its preschool as akin to “Moloch or Baal worship,” and that this aversion to state control “also stems from the experience of Baptists in colonial America who faced religious repression for failing to submit to licensing of their religious ministers.” Nevertheless, the court concluded that the state’s interest in licensing preschools was an interest of the highest order that outweighed the church’s constitutional rights. State of Michigan v. Emmanuel Baptist Preschool, 455 N.W.2d 1 (Mich. 1990).

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