Broadbent, Case Brief

Lisa Broadbent
Case Brief
Citation: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. Supreme
Court of the United States, 1943. 319 U.S. 624, 63 S. Ct. 1178.
Topic: The Pledge of Allegiance
Relief Sought: Citizens of West Virginia requested that Jehovah’s
Witness students not be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Issues: Should Jehovah’s Witness students be required to salute the
flag? Does it create disruption for Jehovah’s Witnesses to refuse to
salute the flag?
Facts: In 1942, the Board of Education required all students to say the
pledge. Students refusing to do so risked suspension until they
agreed to comply with participating in the pledge. Walter Barnette
and others brought the case, believing this law should not apply to
Jehovah’s Witnesses because reciting the pledge was against their
religious beliefs.
Finding of the Court: The Supreme Court found in favor of Barnette
stating that requiring anyone to say the pledge is violating freedom
of speech. Anyone (not just Jehovah’s Witnesses) have the right to
decline participation in a manner that is not disruptive. This ruling
overruled the 1940 case of Minersville School District v. Gobitis,
which was a similar case involving Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Reasoning: The first amendment gives individuals freedom of
speech. Forcing students to say the pledge violates these rights.
Students respectfully declining participation of the pledge are not
infringing on the rights of others who choose to participate. The fact
that the case revolved around Jehovah’s Witnesses was not extremely
significant because the court’s decision was based on freedom of
speech for all as opposed to freedom of religion for Jehovah’s