Flag Day

Today is Flag Day which makes the historic US Supreme Court case from today's date in history a little bit ironic.


West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette is a landmark decision holding that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects students from being forced to salute the American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance in public school. The Court's 6–3 decision is remembered for its forceful defense of free speech and constitutional rights generally as being placed "beyond the reach of majorities and officials".


In the 1930s, the government of Nazi Germany began arresting thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses who refused to salute the Nazi flag and sent them to concentration camps. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the obligation imposed by the law of God is superior to that of laws enacted by government. Their religious beliefs include a literal version of Exodus, Chapter 20, verses 4 and 5, which says: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them." They consider that the flag is an 'image' within this command. For this reason, they refused to salute the flag. In the United States, children of Jehovah's Witnesses had been expelled from school and were threatened with exclusion for no other cause. Officials threatened to send them to reformatories maintained for criminally inclined juveniles. Parents of such children had been prosecuted and were being threatened with prosecutions for causing delinquency.


The Court held, in a 6-to-3 decision delivered by Justice Jackson, that it was unconstitutional for public schools to compel students to salute the flag. The Supreme Court announced its decision on June 14, Flag Day.




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