Brief Fact Summary.
Plaintiff challenged the Nebraska statute that prohibits any person from teaching any subject to anyone in any language than other English.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
While the Court has not attempted to define with exactness the liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, it denotes the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to establish a home and bring up children.
That the State may do much, go very far, indeed, in order to improve the quality of its citizens, physically, mentally and morally, is clear; but the individual has certain fundamental rights which must be respected.View Full Point of Law
Plaintiff in error was tried and convicted in the district court for Nebraska, under an information which charged that while an instructor in Zion Parochial School he unlawfully taught the subject of reading in the German language to Raymond Parpart, a child of 10 years, who had not attained and successfully passed the eighth grade. The information is based upon an Act relating to the teaching of foreign languages in the State of Nebraska, which states that no person shall teach any subject to anyone in any language than other English.
Does the Nebraska statute that prohibits anyone from teaching any subject to any person in any language than other English violate the Fourteenth Amendment?
Yes, the Constitution guarantees not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to establish a home and bring up children, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. The Nebraska statute violates this constitutional guarantee and is arbitrary and without reasonable relation to any end within the competency of the state.
Mere knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be regarded as harmful. In fact, it has been commonly looked upon as helpful and desirable. Plaintiff in error taught this language in school as part of his occupation. His right to each and the right of parents to engage him so to instruct their children are within the liberty of the Constitution. States may do much to improve the quality of its citizens. However, individuals have certain fundamental rights to be respected. No emergency has arisen that makes knowledge by child of some language other than English so clearly harmful as to justify its inhibition with the consequent infringement of rights long freely enjoyed.