LLR Pages

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Supreme Court's 1942 Ruling on the Right to Not Pledge Allegiance to the Flag

The recent suspension of three eighth graders from the public "government" schools brings to mind an old Supreme Court ruling from 1942 -- specifically, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943) -- that overturned the State of West Virginia's law that coerced the public "government" school children to stand up to salute the flag and recite the pledge.

The Court ruled the following:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

(Here's the summary of the case here and the entire opinion here.)

[H/T to courageous LRC blogger Laurence Vance for his outstanding blogging on this.]