Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

have ordained in the light of history, that, in spite of the probability of excesses and abuses, these liberties are, in the long view, essential to enlightened opinion and right conduct on the part of the citizens of a democracy.

The essential characteristic of these liberties is, that under their shield many types of life, character, opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed. Nowhere is this shield more necessary than in our own country for a people composed of many races and of many creeds. There are limits to the exercise of these liberties. . . .

Although the contents of the [phonograph] record not unnaturally aroused animosity, we think that, in the absence of a statute narrowly drawn to define and punish specific conduct as constituting a clear and present danger to a substantial interest of the State, the petitioner's communication, considered in the light of the constitutional guarantees, raised no such clear and present menace to public peace and order as to render him liable to conviction of the common law offense in question.

Source: Cantwell et el. v. State of Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

P. B. Kurland, Religion and the Law ( Chicago, 1961), pp. 51-65.

L. Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom ( Boston, 1953), pp. 529-543.

V. W. Rotnem and F. G. Folsom, Jr., "Recent Restrictions upon Religious Liberty", American Political Science Review, Vol. XXXVI, No. 6 ( December 1942), pp. 1053- 1068.

J. M. Snee, "Religious Disestablishment and the Fourteenth Amendment", Washington University Law Quarterly ( December 1954), pp. 371-407.

A. P. Stokes, Church and State in the United States ( New York, 1950), 1, 575-593.

H. H. Stroup, The Jehovah's Witnesses ( New York, 1945).


153
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (Extracts) June 14, 1943,

Collision between the interests of religious freedom and national unity elicited significant constitutional decisions from the Court in the Gobitis and Bamette cases. As in the Cantwell case, the Jehovah's Witnesses provided the challenge to the law, in this instance refusing to observe "idolatrous" patriotic ritual -- the flag salute and the pledge of allegiance -- in public schools. In Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 310 U.S. 586, the Court, through Justice Frankfurter, denied their appeal, arguing for the political responsibilities of all citizens and the superior claims of national security and unity. Justice Stone provided the lone dissent. Public and professional criticism of the decision was widespread, and in 1942 the Federal District Court of West Virginia reopened the question

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