Pierce v. Society of Sisters
268 U.S. 510 (1925)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)

Pierce v. Society of Sisters

Nos. 583, 584

Argued March 16, 17, 1925

Decided June 1, 1925

268 U.S. 510

Syllabus

1. The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union rest excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. P. 268 U. S. 535.

2. The Oregon Compulsory Education Act (Oreg. Ls., § 5259) which, with certain exemptions, requires every parent, guardian or other person having control of a child between the ages of eight and sixteen years to send him to the public school in the district where he resides, for the period during which the school is held for the current year, is an unreasonable interference with the liberty of the parents and guardians to direct the upbringing of the children, and in that respect violates the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 268 U. S. 534.

3. In a proper sense, it is true that corporations cannot claim for themselves the liberty guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment, and, in general, no person in any business has such an interest in possible customers as to enable him to restrain exercise of proper power by the State upon the ground that he will be deprived of patronage;

4. But where corporations owning and conducting schools are threatened with destruction of their business and property through the improper and unconstitutional compulsion exercised by this statute upon parents and guardians, their interest is direct and immediate, and entitles them to protection by injunction. Truax v. Raich,239 U. S. 33. P. 268 U. S. 535.

5. The Act, being intended to have general application, cannot be construed in its application to such corporations as an exercise of power to amend their charters. Berea College v. Kentucky,211 U. S. 45. P. 268 U. S. 535.

6. Where the injury threatened by an unconstitutional statute is present and real before the statute is to be effective, and will

Page 268 U. S. 511

become irreparable if relief be postponed to that time, a suit to restrain future enforcement of the statute is not premature. P. 268 U. S. 536.

296 Fed. 928, affirmed.

APPEALS from decrees of the District Court granting preliminary injunctions restraining the Governor, and other officials, of the State of Oregon from threatening or attempting to enforce an amendment to the school law -- an initiative measure adopted by the people November 7, 1922, to become effective in 1926 -- requiring parents and others having control of young children to send them to the primary schools of the State. The plaintiffs were two Oregon corporations owning and conducting schools.

Page 268 U. S. 529

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