People v. DeJonge, Docket No. 91479

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtRILEY; MICHAEL F. CAVANAGH; LEVIN; MALLETT
Citation442 Mich. 266,501 N.W.2d 127
Decision Date25 May 1993
Docket NumberDocket No. 91479,N,No. 4
Parties, 61 USLW 2757, 83 Ed. Law Rep. 773 PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Mark DeJONGE and Chris DeJonge, Defendants-Appellants (After Remand). Calendarovember Term 1992.

Page 127

501 N.W.2d 127
442 Mich. 266, 61 USLW 2757, 83 Ed.
Law Rep. 773
PEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Mark DeJONGE and Chris DeJonge, Defendants-Appellants (After Remand).
Docket No. 91479.
Calendar No. 4, November Term 1992.
Supreme Court of Michigan.
Argued Nov. 10, 1992.
Decided May 25, 1993.

Page 129

[442 Mich. 268] Ronald J. Frantz, Pros. Atty. for plaintiff-appellee; by Gregory J. Babbitt, Asst. Pros. Atty.

Christopher J. Klicka, Michael P. Farris, Home School Legal Defense Assn., Paeonian Springs, VA, David A. Kallman, Kallman & Cropsey, Lansing, MI, for defendants/appellants.

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Thomas L. Casey, Sol. Gen., Paul J. Zimmer, Asst. Atty. Gen., for Amicus Michigan State Bd. of Educ.

Mark Brewer, Detroit, MI, Paul Denenfeld, Legal Director, ACLU Fund of Michigan, of counsel, amicus curiae brief of ACLU Fund of Michigan in Support of Reversal on the First Amendment Issue in DeJonge.

OPINION

RILEY, Justice.

At issue is the constitutionality of M.C.L. § 388.553; M.S.A. § 15.1923, which requires parents who conduct home schooling for their children to provide instructors certified by the state. We hold that the teacher certification requirement is an unconstitutional violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment as applied to families whose religious convictions prohibit the use of certified instructors. Such families, therefore, are exempt from the dictates of the teacher certification requirement.

I

Defendants Mark and Chris DeJonge taught [442 Mich. 269] their two school-age children at home in accordance with their religious faith. The DeJonges utilized a program administered by the Church of Christian Liberty and Academy of Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Because the DeJonges taught their children at home without the aid of certified teachers, the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District charged them with violating the compulsory education law, as codified in the School Code, M.C.L. § 380.1561(1), (3); M.S.A. § 15.41561(1), (3). This act requires parents of children from the age of six to sixteen to send their children to public schools or to state-approved nonpublic schools. 1 To qualify as a state-approved nonpublic school, students must be

Page 130

instructed[442 Mich. 270] by certified teachers. M.C.L. § 388.553; M.S.A. § 15.1923. 2

At time of trial, the prosecution never questioned the adequacy of the DeJonges' instruction or the education the children received. Michael McHugh, an employee of the Church of Christian Liberty and Academy, testified that his organization provided the DeJonges with "testing, individualized curriculum, and monitoring of the home school." Unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals, decided August 8, 1989 (Docket No. 106149), p 2. 3

McHugh testified further that this educational program, in use since 1968, had been employed by "many of thousands of youngsters who have attended and successfully graduated from major colleges and universities throughout the United States...." Indeed, with respect to the DeJonge children, the trial judge noted that he was "very impressed with the support that they have, the credentials of the witnesses that have testified and [442 Mich. 271] the reports that apparently are very, very favorable report on the education of the children."

The DeJonges testified that they began teaching their children at home in August of 1984 because they wished to provide them a "Christ centered education." The DeJonges believe that "the major purpose of education is to show a student how to face God, not just show him how to face the world." 4

That the DeJonges' opposition to the certification requirement was religiously motivated was beyond question. At the close of the proceedings, the trial judge concluded that he had no "question about the conviction or the sincerity of the DeJonges on this position," and that the teacher certification requirement conflicted with a "very, very honest and sincere religious conviction."

Nevertheless, the DeJonges were convicted and sentenced to two years probation for instructing their children without state certified teachers. They were each fined $200, required to test their children for academic achievement, and ordered to arrange for certified instruction.

The Ottawa Circuit Court affirmed their convictions, and the DeJonges appealed in the Court of Appeals, where their case was consolidated with People v. Bennett. 5 The Court affirmed both trial [442 Mich. 272] court decisions, and reaffirmed their convictions on rehearing. 179 Mich.App. 225, 449 N.W.2d 899 (1989) (DeJonge II ).

In so ruling, the Court recognized that with respect to the DeJonges the "burden

Page 131

of the state certification law on the belief is high, and there appears to be no room for compromise," DeJonge II, supra, 179 Mich.App. at 235, 449 N.W.2d 899. Nevertheless, the Court ruled that the certification requirement was constitutional as the least restrictive means to meet the state's interest. 6

On October 17, 1990, this Court, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of recent case precedent. 7 436 Mich. 875, 461 N.W.2d 365 (1990).

Following remand, the Court of Appeals again [442 Mich. 273] affirmed the defendants' convictions. 188 Mich.App. 447, 470 N.W.2d 433 (1991) (DeJonge III ). The Court reiterated its prior findings, and added that "since Mr. DeJonge opposes all state involvement in the education of his children, this alternative [individual examinations] would impose just as great a burden on his religious beliefs. Accordingly, we reaffirm the DeJonges' convictions." Id. at 452, 470 N.W.2d 433.

On appeal before this Court, the DeJonges contend that the certification requirement violates their First Amendment right of free exercise of religion, and submit that the Court of Appeals misapplied the compelling interest test by not requiring the state to establish that the certification requirement is essential to and the least restrictive means of achieving a compelling state interest.

II

At issue then is whether Michigan's teacher certification requirement for home schools violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution as applied to the State of Michigan by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. 8 The Free Exercise Clause proclaims: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." 9

Page 132

[442 Mich. 274] Thus, we begin our analysis by considering the historical underpinnings of the First Amendment. This Court has long held that the constitution must be interpreted in light of the original intent and understanding of its drafters. 10 The framers' intent must be understood in conjunction with the intentions and understanding of the constitution held by its ratifiers:

"The intent of the framers, however, must be used as part of the primary rule of 'common understanding' described by Justice Cooley:

" 'A constitution is made for the people and by the people. The interpretation that should be given it is that which reasonable minds, the great mass of the people themselves, would give it.' " 11

A necessary corollary of these principles is that the constitution can only properly be understood by studying its common meaning as well as " 'the circumstances surrounding the adoption of a constitutional provision and the purpose sought to be accomplished....' " 12

These rules of constitutional construction are indispensable because "[t]he literal construction of the words, without regard to their obvious purpose [442 Mich. 275] of protection, is to make the constitutional safeguard no more than a shabby hoax, a barrier of words, easily destroyed by other words.... A constitutional limitation must be construed to effectuate, not to abolish, the protection sought by it to be afforded." Lockwood v. Comm'r of Revenue, 357 Mich. 517, 556-557, 98 N.W.2d 753 (1959). 13 Hence, a thorough examination of the historical origins of the Free Exercise Clause is essential to the proper disposition of the case at issue, and more important, to the preservation of religious freedom. 14

This American experiment 15 includes an unprecedented protection of religious liberty from tyrannical government action. Springing forth from this nation's founding principle that government is "instituted for [the] protection of the rights of mankind," 16 the Free Exercise of Religion Clause ensured protection from government interference as the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. 17

The prominence of religious liberty's protection [442 Mich. 276] in the Bill of Rights is no historical anomaly, but the consequence of America's vigorous clashes regarding religious freedom. The First Amendment's protection of religious liberty was born from the fires of persecution, forged by the minds of the Founding Fathers, and tempered in the struggle for freedom in America. 18

Page 133

As our history forcefully attests, the Founding Fathers envisioned the protection of the free exercise of religion as an affirmative duty of the government mandated by the inherent nature of religious liberty, not one of mere "toleration" by government. 19 Most significant in this history was [442 Mich. 277] the dramatic confrontation regarding the proposed renewal of Virginia's tax levy for the support of the established church. 20 This embroilment bore James Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments, 21 delivered in the Virginia House of Burgess in opposition to the levy, as well as Thomas Jefferson's Virginia Bill of Religious Liberty, enacted in the levy's stead. 22 Madison's Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments explained as "a fundamental and undeniable truth" 23 that religious liberty is a deeply private, fundamental, and inalienable right by which a citizen's religious...

To continue reading

Request your trial
24 practice notes
  • Straus v. Governor, Docket No. 204457
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • June 9, 1998
    ...must be interpreted in light of the original intent and understanding of its drafters. See, e.g., People v. DeJonge (After Remand), 442 Mich. 266, 274, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993); Committee for Constitutional Reform v. Secretary of State, 425 Mich. 336, 342, 389 N.W.2d 430 (1986). The framers' i......
  • Kubik v. Brown, 1:96 CV 848.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • July 29, 1997
    ...is controlling. See Doe v. Department of Social Services, 439 Mich. 650, 487 N.W.2d 166 (1992)(equal protection); People v. DeJonge, 442 Mich. 266, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993) (free exercise/establishment clause claims); Hauser v. Reilly, 212 Mich.App. 184, 536 N.W.2d 865 (1995)(liberty interest ......
  • People v. Nutt, Docket No. 120489, Calendar No. 6.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • April 2, 2004
    ...to discern the original meaning attributed to the words of a constitutional provision by its ratifiers. People v. DeJonge (After Remand), 442 Mich. 266, 274-275, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993). To this end, we apply the rule of "common understanding." Lapeer County Clerk v. Lapeer Circuit Court (In ......
  • Jocham v. Tuscola County, 01-10385-BC.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • January 7, 2003
    ...Constitution has an analogous provision that affords, at a minimum, concomitant protection to religious liberties. People v. DeJonge, 442 Mich. 266, 273 n. 9, 501 N.W.2d 127, 131 n. 9 (1993). The Michigan Supreme Court has suggested that Michigan's constitution may provide greater protectio......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • J & J CONSTRUCTION CO. v. Bricklayers & Allied Craftsmen, Docket No. 119357, Calendar No. 4.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 9, 2003
    ...United Conservation Clubs v. Secretary of State, 464 Mich. 359, 373, 630 N.W.2d 297 (2001) (YOUNG, J., concurring); People v. DeJonge, 442 Mich. 266, 274-275, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993). See also, 1 Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (4th ed., 1873), § 426, p. 315 (Just......
  • Kubik v. Brown, No. 1:96 CV 848.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • July 29, 1997
    ...is controlling. See Doe v. Department of Social Services, 439 Mich. 650, 487 N.W.2d 166 (1992)(equal protection); People v. DeJonge, 442 Mich. 266, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993) (free exercise/establishment clause claims); Hauser v. Reilly, 212 Mich.App. 184, 536 N.W.2d 865 (1995)(liberty interest ......
  • Champion v. Sec. of State, Docket No. 277337.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • October 16, 2008
    ...meaningless and would rarely, if ever, be satisfied, given that, as stated by the Supreme Court in People v. DeJonge (After Remand), 442 Mich. 266, 282, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993), the "major benefactors [of free exercise rights] are religious minorities or dissidents whose beliefs and worship a......
  • Straus v. Governor, Docket No. 204457
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • June 9, 1998
    ...must be interpreted in light of the original intent and understanding of its drafters. See, e.g., People v. DeJonge (After Remand), 442 Mich. 266, 274, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993); Committee for Constitutional Reform v. Secretary of State, 425 Mich. 336, 342, 389 N.W.2d 430 (1986). The framers' i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Parental Rights in Diverse Family Contexts: Current Legal Developments*
    • United States
    • Family Relations Nbr. 51-4, October 2002
    • October 1, 2002
    ...of SocialIssues, 52, 29–50.People of the State of Michigan v. Bennett, 501 N.W.2d 106 (1993).People of the State of Michigan v. Dejonge, 501 N.W.2d 127 (1993).Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925).Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52, 74–75(1976).Princ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT