Religious Freedom Case Victory Helps Home Schoolers
One of the most positive legal developments for religious home schoolers nationwide is the U. S. Supreme Court decision, Frazee v. Illinois Department of Employment Security, 489 US, 103 L Ed 2d 914 (March 29, 1989). This case was handled by the attorney David French of The Rutherford Institute of Charlottesville, Virginia. The Rutherford Institute is a national legal foundation dedicated to preserving religious liberties and it is presently handling over 80 cases throughout the country.
The issue of whether a family's religious conviction concerning home schooling must be supported by a tenet or church doctrine of their church or denomination in order for them to be entitled to protection of the First Amendment and receive a religious exemption from a restrictive requirement has finally been settled by the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court held that in order for a religious belief to be legitimate, the religious belief may be personal and not mandated by a church.
The Court held that whether or not the individual's church “formally” supports the religious belief held by the individual is “an irrelevant issue” in determining the legitimacy of that religious belief. (103 L.Ed 2d at 919).
The case involved a man (Frazee) who, although not part of any particular church or denomination, claimed he was a Christian and that his religious convictions prohibited him from working on Sunday. He refused a job that would have required him to work on Sunday. When he applied for unemployment, his application was denied because the Illinois agency had a policy which would not recognize personal religious beliefs but only religious beliefs that are based on some tenet of a church or denomination. The U. S. Supreme Court finally ruled that Frazee's personal beliefs are legitimate and protected by the First Amendment. As a result, Frazee can collect unemployment. The Court held:
Undoubtedly, membership in an organized religious denomination, especially one with a specific tenet forbidding members to work on Sunday, would simplify the problem of identifying sincerely held religious beliefs, but we reject the notion that to claim the protection of the Free Exercise clause, one must be responding to the commands of a particular religious organization.
103 L Ed 2d at 920.
In other words, the Court is emphasizing that a person's religious beliefs are legitimate and entitled to First Amendment protection even though they are not supported by any particular church tenet. Personal religious beliefs are protected by the U. S. Constitution.
Regarding several of its earlier cases on this subject of sincerity of religious convictions, the Court stated:
It is true, as the Illinois court noted, that each of the claimants in those cases was a member of a particular religious sect, but none of those decisions turned on that consideration or on any tenet of the sect involved that forbade the work the claimant refused to perform. Our judgments in those cases rested on the fact that religion required him or her to refrain from the work in question. Never did we suggest that unless a claimant belongs to a sect that forbids what his job requires, his belief, however sincere, must be deemed a purely personal preference rather than a religious beliefs.
103 L Ed 2d at 919.
This case is significant since several courts including the Court of Appeals of Michigan in the DeJonge case, have ruled against home schoolers, stating they do not have protection of the First Amendment because their religious beliefs concerning education are merely personal since they are not mandated specifically by a church. This case is also very important in Virginia since certain school boards have denied parents religious exemptions merely because their church did not have a doctrine which required them to home school.
Praise God for this victory!