In his article, "The Enemies of Religious Liberty" (February), James Hitchcock may have misinterpreted the essence of the dissenting opinion of Justice William O. Douglas in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972).
Justice Douglas did not give carte blanche approval to the right of all children under all circumstances to disagree with, and to defy, the religious guidance of their parents. He proposed this formula: "Where the child is mature enough to express potentially conflicting desires, it would be an invasion of the child's rights to permit such an imposition without canvassing his views." The Court's opinion expressly disclaimed any intention to rule on the issue of a child's right to pursue his or her own religious orientation.
I note the failure by Professor Hitchcock to present supporting citations for his attribution to Justice Douglas of the view that "90 percent of people were not even fit to be parents." Prof. Hitchcock also failed to present any citations of statutes or of judicial precedents to support his claim that, for Justice Douglas, it is "an open question whether parents possess the right to raise their children in a particular religion." I submit that it is well-established law that parents possess a nearly absolute right to imbue their children with the doctrines and practices of their religion.
Benjamin D. Sherman
Saddle Brook, New Jersey
James Hitchcock replies:
In the Yoder case, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger and Justice Byron D. White, both of whom wrote majority opinions, agreed that if Amish children wanted to attend a public high school contrary to their parents' wishes, the children's desires were relevant. The justices noted, however, that the state of Wisconsin presented...