Nebraska has a law that made it
illegal to teach children to speak foreign languages. Meyer was a
schoolteacher who taught a kid some German. He was arrested and fined.
The Nebraska Supreme Court
affirmed. Meyer appealed.
The US Supreme Court
overturned the conviction and found the Nebraska law to be
The US Supreme Court found
that there was a fundamental right
of parents to control the upbringing of their children, including a right
to teach them German.
The Court therefore found
the Nebraska law to be a violation of substantive due process.
protected by the Due Process clause "without doubt...denotes not
merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the
individual to contract, to engage in any of the common occupations of life,
to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up
children, to worship God according to the dictates of his own
conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized as
essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men."
This case, along with Pierce
v. Society of the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary (268 U.S. 510 (1925)), is often cited as one
of the first instances in which the US Supreme Court engaged in substantive
due process in the area of civil liberties.
This case was decided on the Due
Process Clause of the 14th
Amendment, but it could also have been decided on 1st
Amendmentfreedom of speech