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Hamilton v. Regents of the University of California

293 U.S. 245 (1934)


Facts of the Case:

A group of minors were enrolled as students in the University of California school system. Each refused to take part in the school's Reserve Officer Training Corps program. They were members of a Methodist Church, and two years earlier a church council had renounced military action as contrary to God's will. They sought exemption from training for or serving in the military because they were bound to follow the teachings of the Methodist Church. When the regents refused their request to make military training optional the students were suspended.



Decision:

The Court unanimously upheld the right of California to force its university students to take classes in military training.


Majority Opinion: (Justice Butler)

States are permitted to, and have an interest in, creating a citizenry capable of serving in the country's military. Attendance in the University of California is a privilege in which the students want to partake. "Taken on the basis of the facts alleged in the petition, appellants' contentions amount to no more than an assertion that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as a safeguard of 'liberty' confers the right to be students in the State University free from obligation to take military training as one of the conditions of attendance." Such a position is not constitutionally supportable. Just as states have a duty to protect their citizens, citizens have a reciprocal duty to aid in defending their states.


Significance:

This decision followed the principles established earlier in Schwimmer and Macintosh that the duties of the government to ensure military readiness outweigh the rights of individuals to refuse. National security is considered more important than, and in opposition to, the rights of individuals to acquire a conscientious objector status.




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