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Minersville School District v. Gobitis

Significance

World War II clearly influenced the outcome of this case, which was overturned three years later in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).

The school board that controlled the public school in Minersville, Pennsylvania, required that both teachers and students salute the American flag as part of a daily school exercise. Lillian Gobitis, aged 12, and her brother William, aged 11, both attended the school. Both were from a family that belonged to the Jehovah's Witnesses, which taught that saluting the flag was forbidden by holy scripture. When the children refused to comply with the flag salute requirement, both were expelled from school.

Their parents were then obliged to put the Gobitis children in private schools, an expense the family could not afford. To be relieved of this burden, Walter Gobitis brought this suit in his own behalf and on behalf of his children. From the district court he obtained an injunction to prevent the school board from prohibiting his children from returning to public school. The injunction was upheld in the circuit court of appeals, a ruling the school board requested the U.S. Supreme Court to review.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Minersville School District v. Gobitis - Significance, Nationalism In Time Of War Trumps The First Amendment, Jehovah's Witnesses And Public Schools