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West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

Significance, Supreme Court Holds That Compulsory Flag Ceremonies Violate Constitutional Guarantees Of Free Speech, The Flag Salute


West Virginia State Board of Education


Walter Barnette

Appellant's Claim

That a state law mandating a daily salute of the American flag by public school children does not violate the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom.

Chief Lawyer for Appellant

W. Holt Wooddell

Chief Lawyer for Appellee

Hayden C. Covington

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William O. Douglas, Robert H. Jackson (writing for the Court), Frank Murphy, Stanley Forman Reed, Owen Josephus Roberts

Justices Dissenting

Felix Frankfurter, Wiley Blount Rutledge, Harlan Fiske Stone


Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

14 June 1943


The Supreme Court struck down the West Virginia flag salute law.

Related Cases

  • Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).
  • Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586 (1940).
  • Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972).


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

Further Readings

  • Curtis, Michael Kent, ed. The Constitution and the Flag. New York, NY: Garland, 1993.
  • Newton, Merlin Owen. Armed with the Constitution: Jehovah's Witnesses in Alabama and the U.S. Supreme Court, 1939-1946. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.
  • 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 - 1941 to 1953