Happy Flag Day

On this day we celebrate the Barnette decision. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on flag day, 1943, overturning a law which made it compulsory for students to salute the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance. (The law made parents and guardians of students who disobeyed subject to prosecution – not that this was the reason for overturning the law.) The Barnette family were Jehova’s Witnesses, who believe that saluting the flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance is placing a temporal power above God; they take the command in Exodus as applying to the pledge and salute: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.” It seems to me that secular people who resent being required to say the pledge or to salute the flag generally hold the same reason against it, albeit in a more abstract sense.

Thanks to Carolyn Caywood for commemorating this decision on the ALA Council listserv.

Happy flag day.

3 comments on “Happy Flag Day

  1. Rory, no private citizen in America is required by law to recite the pledge of allegiance or to salute the flag. Ever.

    Were you confused, or are you lying?

    Unlike the citizens of Fidel Castro’s one-party gulag state, we are also free, e.g., to form dissident associations, publish freely, criticize our government…

  2. Things are better than they used to be in that regard (because the conservative opposition was overcome) – this I don’t deny. However, students in elementary school grades are arguably coerced into saluting the flag and reciting the pledge in officially conducted patriotic exercises. This was one contention of the plaintiff in the Newdow case, and the 9th Circuit Court ended up affirming that the pledge was coercive. That was in 2002. The Supreme Court didn’t address the question at that time, but the 9th Circuit Court did say it was coercive.

    You probably think that explanation means I am confused or dishonest. I think it only means that I am not pathologically rigid.

  3. “Pathologically rigid”?

    Two presidents, Rory: George W. Bush and Fidel Castro.

    Which of the two will cede power in two years following a free and fair election for his successor? Which will leave office only after rigor mortis sets in?

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