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. The danger in these times from the coercive activities of those who in the delusion of racial or religious conceit would incite violence and breaches of the peace in order to deprive others of their equal right to the exercise of their liberties, is emphasized by events familiar to all. These and other transgressions of those limits the States appropriately may punish.
Although the contents of the 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.
The judgment affirming the convictions on the third and fifth counts is reversed and the cause is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.
310 U.S. 586, 60 S.Ct. 1010, 84 L.Ed. 1375 ( 1940)
319 U.S. 624, 63 S,Ct. 1178, 87 L.Ed. 1628 ( 1943)
One of the most dramatic reversals of a Court decision occurred in 1943 when a precedent of only three years standing was overruled. Both cases presented the same issue: could school children, members of the sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses, be required to salute the flag, a Practice forbidden by their religious tenets. In the earlier case the Court in an 8 to 1 decision upheld the action of a Pennsylvania school board expelling a recalcitrant pupil; but in the later case the Court by a 6 to 3 vote held a similar action unconstitutional. Excerpts from both cases are included below. It should be noted that this swift realignment of the Court was the result partly of personnel changes (which brought JUSTICES JACKSONand RUTLEDGE to the bench) and partly of the change of viewpoint Of JUSTICES BLACK, DOUGLAS, and MURPHY.
MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the court.
A grave responsibility confronts this Court whenever in course of ligitation it must reconcile the conflicting claims of liberty and authority. But when the liberty invoked is liberty of conscience, and the authority is authority to safe-