Brief Fact Summary. The Respondent, Barnette (Respondent), is a Jehovah’s Witness who refused to pledge allegiance the United States flag while in public school. According to the Petitioner, the West Virginia State Board of Education’s (Petitioner), rule, the Respondent was expelled from school and charged with juvenile delinquency.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The right to not speak is as equally protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution (Constitution) as the right to free speech.
In 1942, the Petitioner adopted a rule that forced all teachers and pupils to pledge allegiance the nation’s flag each day. If the student refused he would be found insubordinate and expelled from school. He would not be readmitted to school until he conformed. Meanwhile, he was considered to be “unlawfully absent” and subject to delinquency hearings. The parents could be fined $50 per day with a jail term not to exceed 30 days. The Respondent asked for an exception for all Jehovah’s Witnesses because this pledge goes against their religious belief. But he was denied an exception.
Issue. Does this rule compelling a pledge violate the First Amendment of the Constitution?
Held. Yes. Compelling a salute to the flag infringes upon an individual’s intellect and right to choose their own beliefs.
Dissent. Points of Law - for Law School Success
These have important, delicate, and highly discretionary functions but none that they may not perform within the limits of the Bill of Rights. View Full Point of Law
This legislation is well within the states purview to encourage good citizenship. Discussion.
The majority focuses on the right of persons to choose beliefs and act accordingly. As long as the actions do not present a clear and present danger of the kind the state is allowed to prevent, then the Constitution encourages diversity of thought and belief. The state has not power to mandate allegiance in hopes that it will encourage patriotism. This is something the citizens will choose or not.