Brief Form - sclawsum07

Kristin Holmberg EDL 517
Case Brief
Case: Minnersville School District v. Gobitis (1940)
Topic: Supreme Court Decisions on Religious Liberty
Issue: Parents alleged that their children’s due process rights had been violated by the school.
 Two Jehovah’s Witness children were suspended from school in Minersville, Pennsylvania, because
they refused to salute the American flag during mandatory morning exercises.
 This resulted in their father enrolling them into a private school.
Court Findings:
In an 8-1 Court Decision with Justice Frankfurter writing the majority opinion, the Supreme Court found that
the school district had a strong interest in creating national unity that was sufficient to permit them to compel
students to salute the flag.
This case required the Court to balance the religious interests of the Jehovah's Witness children with the
secular interests of the school district.
Even though the members of the Court disagreed that a compulsory flag salute is the best way to create
national unity, the flaws in the school district's judgment was not enough to actually rule that their practice
was unconstitutional.
The Court also found that students would not be pulled away from their faith by partaking in the pledge
because their parents have a much greater influence than the school in the development of their religious
This decision described the case as a balancing of conflicting claims of liberty and authority. The school's
interest in creating national unity was, in their opinion, more important than the rights of the students to
refuse to salute the flag. The needs of authority won out over the needs of liberty - a familiar tune in
American history.
In 1943, three years later, this ruling was overturned in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette