B. Barnette (1943): This case deals with whether forcing a student to salute the flag violates that student’s First Am. rights.
The West VA Board of Education—in the middle of World War II—passed a
resolution ordering that the salute to the flag become “a regular
part of the program of activities in the public schools…provided,
however, that the refusal to salute the Flag be regarded as an act of
insubordination, and shall be dealt with accordingly.” Failure to
salute the flag will result in expulsion, and readmission will be
denied until that student decides to salute the flag. Ps (Jehova’s Witnesses) brought suit asking the federal district court to issue an injunction that would prevent the West VA statute from applying to them because the statute was against their religion (Ps considered the flag as an “image” within the command “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”). Ps based their suit on free speech and free exercise grounds. The lawsuit was appealed up to the U.S. Sup. Ct. The U.S. Sup. Ct. focused on the First Am., not the free exercise, issue: Does the compulsory salute and pledge violate Ps’ First Am.
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