The Religious Freedom Page























Minersville School District v. Gobitis

310 U.S. 586 (1940)


Facts of the Case:

Two Jehovah's Witness school children, ages 10 and 12, were suspended from school for refusing to salute the American flag. As a result of their expulsion, their father had to pay for them to enroll in a private school. Their parents claimed that the children's' due process rights had been violated by the school district.



Decision:

In an 8-1 decision, the Court ruled that the school district's interest in creating national unity was sufficient to allow them to require students to salute the flag.


Majority Opinion: (Justice Frankfurter)

This case requires the Court to balance the religious interests of the Jehovah's Witness children with the secular interests of the school district. "Conscientious scruples have not, in the course of the long struggle for religious toleration, relieved the individual from obedience to a general law not aimed at the promotion or restriction of religious beliefs. The mere possession of religious convictions which contradict the relevant concerns of a political society does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities." Requiring the saluting of the flag builds national unity which is at the core of national security. Even though the members of the Court might disagree that a compulsory flag salute is the best way to create national unity, the school district's err in judgment is not sufficient to declare their practice unconstitutional. Finally, the students will not be pulled away from their faith by partaking in the pledge because their parents have a much greater influence than the school in their religious faiths.


Significance:

The Court portrayed the case as balancing conflicting claims of liberty and authority. The school's interest in creating national unity was more important than the rights of the students to refuse to salute the flag.




Copyright © The Religious Freedom Page.