Pierce v The Society of Sisters

Annaleise Gray

Just The Facts

In 1925 The Society of Sisters sued the Governor of Oregon, Walter Pierce, in response to the Oregon Compulsory Education Act (1922). This Education Act had gotten rid of private schools, specifically targeting parochial (Catholic) schools, and it made the attendance of public schools mandatory. (Essentially every student in Oregon could now only go to public school.)


The Society of Sisters (a catholic private school) argued that this act conflicts with the First Amendment specifically the freedom of religion and the parents right to decide where their children learn their secular and religious subjects. This case was brought to the Supreme Court which ruled unanimously that The Oregon Compulsory Education Act violated the Due Process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment as well as violating the freedom of religion. The Oregon Compulsory Act was declared unconstitutional and void, allowing private schools to continue their business of education.

Here is a guy who explains the case in a suit outside.

Two Minute Supreme Court Case Summary : Pierce v Society of Sisters

Historical, Present, and Future Effects

This Court ruling immediately declared the Education Act unconstitutional, therefore allowing the private schools to continue their business of education. This meant that parents could decide, if they wished, to send their children to a private school, a religious affiliated private school or a public school. This also allowed private schools to operate without state government intervention so long as the schools met basic safety and health requirements. This case is still relevant today as parents may decide where to send their child to school (so long as the child is getting an education,) and private schools still have more discretion in regards to curriculum compared to state regulated public schools.

What did the Supreme Court say? And why should we care?

By ruling that The Oregon Compulsory Education Act was unconstitutional the application and definition of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment expanded significantly. Pierce v Society of Sisters set a precedent in the protection of Due Process and has been cited in many other cases related to the Due Process clause including cases that concern issues such as abortion, the right to marry, marital privacy and many other issues relating.

Here is another video to summarize

Pierce v. Society of Sisters