1st Amendment Cases

"I Pledge Alligence..."

Case 1: Minersville School District v. Gobitis

Case Name and Year

Name: Minersville School District v. Gobitis

Year: 1940

Historical Context

Although the Pledge of Allegiance was created decades ago, it still lives on today and symbolizes an importance of freedom. Until, June 22, 1942, when the Pledge of Allegiance created a widespread of corruption and issues regarding the treatment of flags or other aspects of ceremonial practices. Francis Bellamy a Christian socialist had created a salute which later became known as the "Bellamy salute." The salute became dated and fell of fashion in the early 1940s. The rise of Facism began and salutes became very common with the beginning of World War 11. Most commonly known as Hitler or Mussolini salutes.

Facts of Case

According to Oyez.com, the Gobitis children, Lillian and William were expelled from school because they refused to salute the flag. The Gobitis children were Jehovah's Witnesses, which means they believe such gesture for a flag was forbidden by Biblical commands. Adding on, the Gobitis family was physically attacked and their family grocery store was boycotted. This caused the Gobitis family a great deal of financial issues in which later caused the father of the Gobitis children, to sue the school district. This case was later decided in the Supreme Court.

Question(s) before the Supreme Court

"Did the mandatory flag salute infringe upon liberties protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments?"

Amendments Involved

1st Amendment

Court's Ruling

In an 8 to 1 decision, the Court had decided that the flag was an important symbol in our country. Furthermore, the Supreme Court had found that the school district had a very strong interest in creating national enact unity. In addition, this lead the Supreme Court to believe that the school district was eligible enough to permit and promote students to say 'The Pledge of Allegiance.'

Impact of the Case

Eventhough there was a violation of a First Amendment right, schoolchildren were still required to participate in religious practices.

Case 2: West Virgina State Board of Education v. Barnette

Case Name and Year

Name: West Virgina State Board of Education v. Barnette

Year: 1943

Historical Context

PBS states, when West Virginia schoolchildren refused to participate in saluting the flag, it resulted in a outbreak of religious controversies and constitutional protection of religious liberties for all Americans. Jehovah's Witnesses Walter Barnette, Lucy McClure, and Paul Stull sued when their children were expelled from school. The parents claimed that Kanawha County schools required all students to participate in saluting a flag violated their children's First Amendment freedom of both speech and religion. Three years earlier, a similar case occurred that the Supreme Court had ruled. The Minersville School District v. Gobitis case was presented upon the court, which lead in an 8-1 decision. The Supreme Court stated that such requirements were not meant in order for a violation to occur. America's involvement in World War II casted a widespread of refusal in any type of religious actions. Some of which turned violent. Jehovah's Witnesses challenged the most and won in court in the 1942 Minersville School District v. Gobitis case. This was later followed by the West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette case in which the state appealed to the Supreme Court in a 6-3 decision. Justice Robert Jackson had expressed the Court's opinion which stated, "The very purpose of a Bill of Rights, was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials.’’

Facts of Case

The West Virginia Board of Education had required all students to salute the flag which was said to be a program of activities in all public schools. If refused it was considered to be treated as an "insubordination and was punishable by expulsion and charges of delinquency." Walter Barnette refused to allow his children to participate in such religious practices. Walter sued in U.S district court and won against state enforcement of the rule. The state school board later appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case. The decision resulted in 6-3.

Question(s) before the Supreme Court

"Did the compulsory flag-salute for public schoolchildren violate the First Amendment?"

Amendments Involved

1st Amendment

Court's Ruling

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that in the Minersville School District v. Gobitis case, it was unconstitutional for public schoolchildren to salute the flag. In other words, the Supreme Court felt that forcing children to salute the flag was unethical. Which allowed students/schoolchildren the freedom of not participating in any practice. In this case, saying 'The Pledge of Allegiance.'

Impact of the Case

Since the Supreme Court's decision, all schoolchildren are allowed to refuse to participate in any type of ceremonial or religious practices.

SUMMARY

When deciding the Minersville School District v. Gobitis case, the Supreme Court based their decision on time, place, and perspective. When the case took place, World War 11 was still in action. Jehovah's Witnesses were considered traitors and "Nazi spies" just because they refused to salute the flag. Furthermore, because the case took place in the United States the Constitution acknowledged that students must participate in the ceremonial practice. Adding on, because our nation was in such a difficult time (World War 11), national unity was one of our last options. When the hearing the case, the Supreme Court was convinced that the flag represented national unity. 1943 came along and a similar case occurred. In the West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette Jehovah's Witnesses were involved again. World War 11, was coming down to it's last years but Jehovah's Witnesses were still discriminated for their political and religious beliefs. In addition, the Constitution still prevented them from being free from forced practices. Therefore, everyone was still required to participate in these ceremonial practices. When the Supreme Court heard the case, they stated that forcing schoolchildren to participate in any religious practices, etc. was both unethical and cruel. Finally, the Supreme Court decided to allow all schoolchildren to have the decision to participate in any ceremonial practices.