Church and State in the Modern Age: A Documentary History

By J. F. MacLear | Go to book overview

but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

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. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

Source: West Virginia State Board of Education et al. v. Barnette et al., 319 U.S. 624.


SUGGESTIONS FOR BACKGROUND AND REFERENCE

H. W. Barber, "Religious Liberty v. Police Power: Jehovah's Witnesses," American Political Science Review, Vol. XLI, No. 2 ( April 1947), pp. 226-247.

W. G. Fennell, "The 'Reconstructed Court' and Religious Freedom: The Gobitis Case in Retrospect", New York University Law Quarterly Review, Vol. XIX, No. I ( November 1941), pp. 31-48.

A. W. Johnson and F. H. Yost, Separation of Church and State in the United States ( Minneapolis, 1948), pp. 175-186.

P. B. Kurland, Religion and the Law ( Chicago, 1961), pp. 41-47.

L. Pfeffer, Church, State, and Freedom ( Boston, 1953), pp. 510-528.

A. P. Stokes, Church and State in the United States ( New York, 1950), 1, 600-616. References for Document 152.


154
Everson v. Board of Education (Extracts) February 10, 1947

Education, always an area of friction in issues of church and state, occupied the foreground in the constitutional cases of the 1940s. Measures relating to parochial schools and desired chiefly by Catholics were passed in some states and attacked by opponents as indirect government

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