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My title is "Parents, Religion, and Schools." You will notice—and, I suspect, you will initially be alarmed by—my omission of "children" from a title that, it would seem, should quite obviously include them. But, as we will see, there is purpose to my pedagogy or, if you prefer, method to my madness.

I want to begin with a simple proposition. I do not plan to argue for it. I will simply assert it. I am not insisting that it is correct. I am wondering at the implications if it is correct. The proposition is the one that guided the Supreme Court in its 1925 decision in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, which struck down an Oregon law requiring all children to attend public schools. The law was unconstitutional, the Justices explained, because it interfered with the "liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control." For a moment, let us take the words of Pierce at their face value, that the right of parents to direct the upbringing of children is fundamental, suggesting that it rivals in importance such rights as the freedom of speech, the liberty from unreasonable searches and seizures, or the privilege to be free of state-sponsored racial discrimination.

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