June 14, 1943 – Justice Jackson Fixes A Star in our Constitutional Constellation

On this date, the Supreme Court decided West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (319 U.S. 624).

The Court’s opinion, delivered by Justice Robert H. Jackson, held that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

It might be noted in addition, that up until 1942, many children in America used the “Bellamy salute” to accompany the American Pledge of Allegiance. (Francis Bellamy authored the Pledge, and described the salute shown below to accompany it.) After the Fascists adopted this style of salute, Congress officially adopted the hand-over-heart stance to be used while the Pledge is recited.

American students citing the Pledge with the Bellamy salute

In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, Justice Jackson memorably wrote:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Justice Robert H. Jackson

Justice Robert H. Jackson

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