Patriotism on Trial

No Notre Dame Academy, no Holy Name High School, no St. John's Prep School, or Stone Ridge Academy of the Sacred Heart, no Archbishop Molloy, or De Matha, Magnificat, Queen of Peace, Hales Franciscan, Loyola, Cathedral Latin, Ursuline, Marymount, or Bishop Borgess.

None of them.

No religion classes, no religious clubs, no religious brothers or sisters, no masses, no prayers, no crucifixes in the classroom, no religious community service nor even a Catholic Athletic Conference or a Catholic School League.

In 1922 the people of Oregon voted on a Compulsory School Law. The law did not just demand that children between the ages of eight and sixteen had to attend school; it required they attend only public schools. In not allowing children to attend private or parochial schools, the state thus forced such schools to close.

The 1925 Supreme Court decision on the case of Walter M. Pierce vs. The Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary declared the Compulsory School Law unconstitutional, however. There has not been an attempt to keep young people out of private and parochial schools since.

Why did Oregon pass such a law? How and why was it overturned? What does this episode say about the role of private schools in American life, the rights of minorities to acquire an education of their choosing, of minorities and the United States Constitution?

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