Meyer v. Nebraska


When it comes to banning foreign languages, Meyer v. Nebraska (1923) said Nebraska violated the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause by banning the teaching of German in schools.

Meyer v. Nebraska has some interesting facts. As with other states prohibiting certain languages from being taught, a Nebraska teacher was charged under a state statute for teaching German to an eighth grade student. This conviction was upheld it a Nebraska Supreme Court.

As for an issue, here’s what the Supreme Court had to answer: Does this Nebraska statute violate a liberty interest under the 14th Amendment?

Meyer v. Nebraska provided this following rule. When legislation is not reasonably related to an state objective, the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from creating legislation that restricts a liberty interest.

At the time of World War 1, the state of Nebraska had this German language ban. This legislation was designed to stop German language from being taught. Throughout the war, American discriminated against Germans by banning the German language from schools.

In the majority opinion, Justice McReynolds said German language wasn’t harmful. He said: “Practically, education of the young is only possible in schools conducted by especially qualified persons who devote themselves thereto. The calling always has been regarded as useful and honorable, essential, indeed, to the public welfare. Mere knowledge of the German language cannot reasonably be regarded as harmful.” Now, German language could be taught in schools.

When it comes to this case, many legal scholars call it a Due Process case or a First Amendment case. Since the First Amendment was incorporated in Gitlow v. New York (1925), some legal scholars argue a trend began at this time where Due Process cases were starting to be called First Amendment cases. Further, some scholars said the Supreme Court called this case a First Amendment case because they didn’t want to be seen as guilty of Lochnerism. In later jurisprudence, the Supreme Court would brand this case a First Amendment case.

Overall, Nebraska state violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment in Meyer v. Nebraska. Nebraska couldn’t ban the teaching of German language in schools.