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W. Va. State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette

Supreme Court of the United States

March 11, 1943, Argued ; June 14, 1943, Decided

No. 591

Opinion

 [*625]   [**1179]   [***1630]  MR. JUSTICE JACKSON delivered the opinion of the Court.

Following the decision by this Court on June 3, 1940, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586,  [***1631]  the West Virginia legislature amended its statutes to require all schools therein to conduct courses of instruction in history, civics, and in the Constitutions of the United States and of the State "for the purpose of teaching, fostering and perpetuating the ideals, principles and spirit of Americanism, and increasing the knowledge of the organization and machinery of the government." Appellant  [*626]  Board of Education was directed, with advice of the State Superintendent of Schools, to "prescribe the courses of study covering these subjects" for public schools. The Act made it the duty of private, parochial and denominational schools to prescribe courses of study "similar to those required for the public schools." 1

 [****4]  The Board of Education on January 9, 1942, adopted a resolution containing recitals taken largely from the Court's Gobitis opinion and ordering that the salute to the flag become "a regular part of the program of activities in the public schools," that all teachers and pupils "shall be required to participate in the salute honoring the Nation represented by the Flag; provided, however, that refusal to salute the Flag be regarded as an act of insubordination, and shall be dealt with accordingly." 2

 [****5]   [*627]  The resolution originally required the " [**1180]  commonly accepted salute  [***1632]  to the Flag" which it defined. Objections to the salute as "being too much like Hitler's" were raised by the Parent and Teachers Association, the Boy and Girl  [*628]  Scouts, the Red Cross, and the Federation of Women's Clubs. 3 [****6]  Some modification appears to have been made in deference to these objections, but no concession was made to Jehovah's Witnesses. 4 What is now required is the "stiff-arm" salute, the saluter to keep the right hand raised with palm turned up  [**1181]  while the following is repeated: "I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of  [*629]  America and to the Republic for which it stands; one Nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Failure to conform is "insubordination" dealt with by expulsion. Readmission is denied by statute until compliance. Meanwhile the expelled child is "unlawfully absent" 5 [****7]  and may be proceeded against  [***1633]  as a delinquent. 6 His parents or guardians are liable to prosecution, 7 and if convicted are subject to fine not exceeding $ 50 and jail term not exceeding thirty days. 8

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319 U.S. 624 *; 63 S. Ct. 1178 **; 87 L. Ed. 1628 ***; 1943 U.S. LEXIS 490 ****; 147 A.L.R. 674

WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL. v. BARNETTE ET AL.

Prior History: APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA.

APPEAL from a decree of a District Court of three judges enjoining the enforcement of a regulation of the West Virginia State Board of Education requiring children in the public schools to salute the American flag.

Disposition:  47 F.Supp.  [****2]  251, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

religious, flag, salute, conscience, religion, symbol, scruples, attendance, offend, compulsion, compulsory, obedience, unity, ceremony, prescribe, wisdom, worship, evil, citizenship, conformity, patriotism, utterance, pupils, allegiance, loyalties, nullified, teaching, church, pledge, accommodations

Education Law, Departments of Education, State Departments of Education, Authority of Departments of Education, Administration & Operation, Elementary & Secondary School Boards, Authority of School Boards, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Bill of Rights, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Justiciability, Standing, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Types of Statutes, Fundamental Freedoms, Freedom of Assembly, Vagueness, Freedom of Speech, Judicial & Legislative Restraints