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COMMONWEALTH v. BEILER (TWO CASES) (03/12/51)

March 12, 1951

COMMONWEALTH
v.
BEILER (TWO CASES)



COUNSEL

Charles W. Eaby, Samuel S. Wenger, Lancaster, for appellant.

John Milton Ranck, Dist. Atty., Lancaster, Louis S. May, Solicitor School District of Salisbury Township, Lancaster, Elmer T. Bolla, Deputy Atty. Gen., Charles J. Margiotti, Atty. Gen., for appellee.

Before Hirt, Acting P. J., and Reno, Dithrich, Ross, Arnold and Gunther, JJ.

Author: Reno

[ 168 Pa. Super. Page 463]

RENO, Judge.

Samuel and Levi Beiler were convicted in summary proceedings before a justice of the peace and on appeal in the court below of violating the compulsory attendance provisions of the Public School Code of 1949, P.L. 30, 24 P.S. § 1-101 et seq. They are members of the Old Order Amish Church, and their separate appeals invoke the protection of religious freedom guaranteed by the State and Federal Constitutions.*fn1

Samuel is the father of Naomi Beiler; Levi is the father of Jacob Beiler. Both children are 14 years of age, have completed and passed the eighth grade in the public schools, and are eligible for instruction in the high school grades. Appellants refused to send their

[ 168 Pa. Super. Page 464]

    children for further instruction in the schools to which they had been assigned, and this constitutes the alleged violations of the Code. Nor have they attended private or denominational schools or received instruction from qualified tutors. Their parents hold, in conformity with the tenets of their religion, that children should not receive secular education after they have attained the age of fourteen and have completed the eighth grade of the public schools.

The Code, §§ 1326, 1327, 24 P.S. §§ 13-1326, 13-1327, requires: 'Every parent * * * of any child or children of compulsory school age [between the ages of eight and seventeen] * * * to send such child or children to a day school in which the subjects and activities prescribed by the State Council of Education are taught in the English language.' A 'day school' includes a public school but does not exclude other methods of education, and parents may send their children to private or parochial schools or have then instructed by qualified tutors. A subsequent section of the Code, § 1330, 24 P.S. § 13-1330, provides various exemptions, but appellants did not apply for or secure permits which might have exempted their children from attending school.*fn2

[ 168 Pa. Super. Page 465]

The Amish are our 'plain people', a quiet, pious, industrious, thrifty people, whose vitalizing contributions to the welfare, and especially to the development of the agricultural resources, of the Commonwealth have always been gratefully recognized.*fn3 Their ancestors came to Pennsylvania in response to William Penn's personal invitation and his promise of religious liberty. They adhere, devoutly and unchangingly, to the strict and literal interpretation of the Dortricht Creed, a confession of faith adopted at Dort, Holland, in 1632, by the followers of Menno Simons, the founder of the Mennonite Church, from which sprang the Amish under the leadership of Jacob Amman.*fn4 Upon it, they have patterned their lives and followed it, consistently, conscientiously and faithfully.*fn5

The specific doctrinal pronouncement of the Dortricht confession here relevant is: 'And since it is a known fact that a lack of faithful ministers, and the erring of the sheep because of the lack of good doctrine, arise principally from the unworthiness of the people; therefore, the people of God, needing this, should not turn to such as have been educated in universities, according to the wisdom of man, that they may talk and dispute, and seek to sell their purchased gift ...


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