Schools – Part 2

Church Law and Tax 1990-03-01 Recent Developments Schools Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA •

Church Law and Tax 1990-03-01 Recent Developments


A Michigan state appeals court upheld the conviction of two families for violating the state compulsory education law for “homeschooling” their children without the use of a state-certified teacher. The parents claimed that they had a God-given mandate to educate their children at home, and that allowing the state to certify their children’s teachers amounts to an interference with God’s authority. Submitting to the state’s authority would “constitute a sin.” The court rejected the parents’ claim that the teacher-certification requirement violated their constitutional right to religious freedom. It concluded that any burden imposed on the parents’ religious beliefs was “minimal,” and that it was clearly outweighed by a “compelling state interest.” The court observed that the parents’ pastor testified that the church did not oppose teacher-certification and did allow “delegation of the parents’ education responsibility.” Accordingly, the court characterized the parents’ belief as “personal rather than religious,” and as such not entitled to constitutional protection under the first amendment. The court further noted that the parents were free to hire a certified teacher “who meets their qualifications,” and that “teachers can fulfill all the state certification requirements while attending … a religious institution.” For all of these reasons, “the infringement on free exercise [or religion] rights is minimal and is outweighed by the state’s interest.” The court acknowledged that “state licensure does not guaranty quality teachers, but one cannot ignore the high likelihood that a person who meets the qualifications for certification has absorbed the knowledge a competent teacher should have.” People v. DeJone, 445 N.W.2d 503 (Mich. App. 1989).

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