Vanderbilt Law Review

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Bobby and Esther Riddle, the Supreme Court of West Virginia conceded, "did an excellent job" teaching their children, Jill and Tim- possibly better than the public schools could do."' Like many fundamentalist parents, the Riddles believed the Bible required them personally to teach their children, protect them from heresy and worldly influence, and resist government intrusions that could imperil their eternal salvation. Moreover, they believed they had constitutional rights to do so. Jill and Tim Riddle studied the same subjects as public schoolchildren, but their studies were interwoven with religious lessons based upon their parents' idiosyncratic view of Christian doctrine. The Riddles chose to be "separated from, and at odds with, the values of the world," the West Virginia Supreme Court stated. Similarly, they believed it their divinely mandated duty to remove their children from institutional schools, places suffused with those values.

Yet the court found it "inconceivable" that children could "lawfully be sequestered ... during all of their formative years to be released upon the world only after their opportunities to acquire basic skills have been foreclosed and their capacity to cope with modern society has been so undermined as to prohibit useful, happy or productive lives." Allowing the Riddles to educate their children at home-as they chose and without state supervision-would "lead[ ineluctably to a hideous result." If the Riddles could homeschool their children, all parents or guardians would have the right to keep their children in medieval ignorance, quarter them in Dickensian squalor beyond the reach of the ameliorating influence of the social welfare agencies, and so separate [them] from organized society in an environment of indoctrination and deprivation that the children [would] become mindless automatons incapable of coping with life outside their own families.

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