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78 U. Det. Mercy L. Rev. 373 (2000-2001)
75 Years after Pierce v. Society of Sisters

handle is hein.journals/udetmr78 and id is 383 raw text is: COLLOQUIUM
75 Years After Pierce v. Society of Sisters
On November 7, 2000, Michigan voters were asked to approve a
constitutional amendment to allow the state to dispense money to
parents who send their children to private school, including schools
sponsored by religious institutions. The initiative was defeated at the
polls. Whether this indirect funding of private sectarian schools
would have violated the First Amendment as an establishment of
religion and therefore constitute an invalid policy is questionable.
In a seemingly unrelated matter, this pastJune, the United States
Supreme Court issued an opinion in Troxel v. Granville, which
declared unconstitutional the decision of an Oregon trial court,
which had decided pursuant to Oregon law that, in the best interest
of the children, grandparents could visit their grandchildren against
the wishes of the custodial surviving parent. Whether state courts
should or could under some circumstances order grandparent or
other third party visitation against the wishes of parents remains an
open and complex policy and constitutional issue.
Both of these situations involve the power of the state to affect
and intrude on parental decision-making. There are many other
Supreme Court opinions that address and attempt to appropriately
balance the triangular relationship among state, child and parent.
Two cases, Meyer v. Nebraska and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, decided in
the 1920s articulate the premise that the state's power to interfere
with a parent's right to raise and prepare a child for adulthood is
significantly limited by the Constitution of the United States.
The year 2000 marked the 75th anniversary of one of these cases,
Pierce v. Society of Sisters, a case with a strange origin and surprisingly
wide application, involving highly contentious and serious social,
political, and legal issues. The Pierce case grew out of an attempt by
two major interest groups in Oregon to prevent the creation of
private schools as alternatives to public schools. One interest group,
rooted in bigotry, was simply hostile to the prospect of religious
I wish to thank PamJohnson for the research assistance she provided in connection
with this piece.

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