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Minersville School District v. Gobitis

Significance, Nationalism In Time Of War Trumps The First Amendment, Jehovah's Witnesses And Public Schools


Minersville School District


Walter Gobitis

Appellant's Claim

That forcing a schoolchild to salute the American flag in violation of her religious principles abridges her First Amendment right to exercise her faith freely.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

Joseph W. Henderson

Chief Lawyers for Appellee

George K. Gardner and Joseph F. Rutherford

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William O. Douglas, Felix Frankfurter (writing for the Court), Charles Evans Hughes, James Clark McReynolds, Frank Murphy, Stanley Forman Reed, Owen Josephus Roberts

Justices Dissenting

Harlan Fiske Stone


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

3 June 1940


Arguing that the "felt necessities" of society outweigh the dictates of an individual's religious conscience, the Supreme Court upheld the state law mandating the flag salute.

Related Cases

  • Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).
  • West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).


Eastland, Terry. Religious Liberty in the Supreme Court. Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1993.

Further Readings

  • Bosmajian, Haig A., ed. Freedom of Religion. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman, 1987.
  • Curtis, Michael Kent, ed. The Constitution and the Flag. New York, NY: Garland, 1993.
  • Johnson, John W., ed. Historic U.S. Court Cases, 1690-1990: An Encyclopedia. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992.
  • Stevens, Leonard A. Salute! The Case of the Bible vs. the Flag. New York, NY: Coward McCann & Geoghegan, 1973.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940