• Last updated on November 11, 2022

The Supreme Court first applied the doctrine of substantive due process to strike down a law for infringing upon a noneconomic liberty.

Shortly after World War I, the Nebraska legislature passed a statute that prohibited schools from teaching any modern non-English language to children before the eighth grade. Meyer, who taught German in a Lutheran school, was convicted of disobeying the law. By a 7-2 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the law violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice James C. McReynoldsMcReynolds, James C.[MacReynolds, James C.];Meyer v. Nebraska[Meyer v. Nebraska] explained that the amendment protected long-recognized liberties such as the right to marry, to acquire knowledge, and to raise children. The law was “arbitrary” and “without reasonable relation” to a legitimate governmental purpose. In dissent, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, having often criticized the use of substantive due process to protect a freedom of contract, argued that the state had a reasonable interest in promoting a common language. Meyer was never overturned, and forty years later, it became an important precedent in the development of a constitutional right of privacy.[case]Meyer v. Nebraska[Meyer v. Nebraska]Due process, substantive;Meyer v. Nebraska[Meyer v. Nebraska]Parental rights;Meyer v. Nebraska[Meyer v. Nebraska]Due process, substantive;Meyer v. Nebraska[Meyer v. Nebraska]

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes dissented in Meyer, arguing that the state had a reasonable interest in promoting a common language.

(Library of Congress)

Due process, substantive

Pierce v. Society of Sisters

Privacy, right to

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