West Virginia vs. Barnette (1943)

By : Maggie Dencheva, Daisy Flores

The Story:

The West Virginia Board of Education required that all of the students in its local schools must salute the American flag as a daily routine in the program of activities. Not doing so could result in expulsion and disciplinary action. Walter Barnette's (whom is a Jehovah's Witness) daughters (who are also Jenovah's Witnesses) were forbidden to salute or pledge to such symbols because their religion didn't allow it. The Barnettes refused to salute the flag and got expelled from school. Walter Barnette then sued the Board of Education for the unfair treatment toward his daughters and for others in similar situations. Barnette sued in the U.S District Court, and then the case was sent to an Appeals Court, and then it went to the Supreme Court.

The Constitutional Questions :

This case raised controversy over wether the compulsory flag-salute for public schoolchildren violates the 1st Amendment. It did, it violated the students' freedom of speech and religion by making it mandatory for the kids to salute a symbol that perhaps was not a part of their religion and making them rehearse a pledge that uses the word god in it. .
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The Winner :

Barnette won the case ; the Supreme Court ruled that requiring schoolchildren to salute the flag was unconstitutional and a violation of the 1st Amendment. The Court said : " compulsory unification of opinion is doomed to failure and is antiethical to 1st Amendment values".
West Virginia Board of Education vs Barnette