319 U.S. 624
WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION et al.v. BARNETTE et al. No. 591. U.S Supreme Court Argued March 11, 1943. Decided June 14, 1943.

This case was initiated when the school board made it mandatory for all children attending the school to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. If the students did not comply, they were not allowed to attend and would be consisted unlawfully absent. The parents of these children would be held responsible for the student's absence and face up to 30 days in jail and up to a $50 fine. Many Jehovah’s Witness parents were jailed because of this rule. Their children were also not allowed to attend school because their religion restricted them from pledging to the flag.


The United States Supreme Court ruled that the rule imposed on the children was unconstitutional on the grounds of the Free Speech Clause of the Constitution. The case overturned a previous decision on the same matter that happened in 1940 (Minersville School District v. Gobitis). The court concluded that the State School Board, while having the authority to create rules for students that must be followed, the rules must adhere to the Bill of Rights. It was a significant victory for the religious community that couldn't abide by this rule because of their religious beliefs.

Impact on teachers:

Although the impact was directed at the State School Board, it did impact the classroom teachers as well. This case is a reminder that while we may have the best intentions, or a truly patriotic reason for creating and enforcing a rule, if it infringes on someone's rights it could and probably will turn into a lawsuit. We as Americans, come from different backgrounds and may not view things the same. Personally we see saluting the flag and saying the pledge as a symbol of respect to all of the people who fought for our freedom, however, some see it as worship to a false idol. Although the viewpoints are completely different we all must find a common ground to respect each others feeling and beliefs.

Quiz Question:

T/F The Supreme Court ruled that the State School Board could not mandate children to salute and say the pledge because of the Free Exercise Clause in the Constitution.

Matthew Hotard and Stacy Lynch