January 31st begins Catholic Schools Week in the United States. Our theme across all states is, “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”
The mission of our school signals our daily focus: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Elementary School, united in Christ and guided by the spirit of our Blessed Mother, is rooted in the Gospel message of love and acceptance. In educating the whole person, "Mind, Body, and Spirit", we transform each student through the power of faith and knowledge,
inspiring each to bring Christ to the world.
In celebrating Catholic education, we must be thankful for the Society of Sisters, who after WW1, challenged the Oregon Governor, Walter M. Pierce, who passed a law so that all students would attend ONLY public schools.
After World War I, some states, concerned about the influence of immigrants and foreign values, looked to public schools for help. The states drafted laws designed to use schools to promote a common American culture.
On November 7, 1922, under Oregon Governor Walter M. Pierce, the voters of Oregon passed an initiative amending Oregon Law Section 5259, the Compulsory Education Act. The citizens' initiative was primarily aimed at eliminating parochial schools, including Catholic schools.
The Compulsory Education Act had required Oregon children between eight and sixteen years of age to attend public school.
The Sisters of the Holy Names sued Walter Pierce, the governor of Oregon, along with Isaac H. Van Winkle, the state attorney general, and Stanley Myers, district attorney of Multnomah County (of which Portland is the county seat, and where the Sisters were headquartered). The Sisters' case alleges that:
That the enactment conflicts with the right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training, the right of the child to influence the parents' choice of a school, the right of schools and teachers therein to engage in a useful business or profession. (268 U.S. 510, 532).
The Sisters' case rested only secondarily on the assertion that their business would suffer based on the law. That is, its primary allegation was that the State of Oregon was violating specific First Amendment rights (such as the right to freely practice one's religion). Their case alleged only secondarily that the law infringed on Fourteenth Amendment rights regarding protection of property (namely, the school's contracts with the families).
The school won the case before a three-judge panel of the Oregon District Court, which granted an injunction against the Act. The defendants appealed their case directly to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court heard the case on 16 and 17 March 1925.
The right of parents to control their children's education without state interference became a "cause célèbre" following the case, and religious groups proactively defended this right from state encroachment. R. Scott Appleby wrote in the American Journal of Education that this led to a "remarkably liberal" education policy wherein religious schools are not subjected to state accreditation but only to "minimal state health and safety" laws.