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He even claimed Social Security numbers were the “mark of the beast” foretold in Revelations.
The Catholic Church, said Rutherford, was a “racket,” and Protestants and Jews were “great simpletons,” taken in by the Catholic hierarchy to “carry on her commercial, religious traffic and increase her revenues.” Complaints about unwelcome public proselytizing by Witnesses led to frequent run-ins with state and local authorities and hundreds of appearances in lower courts.
The Court rejected the Witnesses’ claim, holding that the secular interests of the school district in fostering patriotism were paramount.
In the majority opinion, written during the same month that France fell to the Nazis, Felix Frankfurter wrote: “National unity is the basis of national security.” The plaintiffs, said Frankfurter, were free to “fight out the wise use of legislative authority in the forum of public opinion and before legislative assemblies.” In a strongly worded dissent, Justice Harlan Stone argued that “constitutional guarantees or personal liberty are not always absolutes…but it is a long step, and one which I am unwilling to take, that government may, as a supposed educational measure…compel public affirmations which violate their public conscience.” Further, said Stone, the prospect of help for this “small and helpless minority” by the political process was so remote that Frankfurter had effectively “surrendered…the liberty of small minorities to the popular will.” Public reaction to Gobitis bordered on hysteria, colored by the hotly debated prospect of American participation in the war in Europe.
The Witnesses insisted that God’s law demanded they refrain from all pledges of allegiance to earthly governments.
They tested the nation’s tolerance of controversial beliefs and led to an increasing recognition that a willingness to embrace religious diversity is what distinguishes America from tyrannical regimes.
One Witness was beaten unconscious, and those who fled were cornered by ax- and knife-wielding men riding the town’s fire truck as someone yelled, “Get the ropes! ” In Kennebunk, Maine, the Witnesses’ gathering place, Kingdom Hall, was ransacked and torched, and days of rioting ensued.
In Litchfield, Ill., an angry crowd spread an American flag on the hood of a car and watched while a man repeatedly smashed the head of a Witness upon it.
The sect’s leaders denounced all other religions and all secular governments as tools of the devil, and preached the imminence of the Apocalypse, during which no one except Jehovah’s Witnesses would be spared.“One’s right to life, liberty and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, may not be submitted to vote….Fundamental rights depend on the outcome of no elections.” Jackson’s opinion was laced with condemnation of enforced patriotism and oblique hints at the slaughter taking place in Hitler’s Europe.They stood, held their right hands over their hearts or in a raised-arm salute and began, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” To most Americans the pledge was a solemn affirmation of national unity, especially at a time when millions of U. They insisted that pledging allegiance to the flag was a form of idolatry akin to the worship of graven images prohibited by the Bible. Barnette, Walter Barnett (whose surname was misspelled by a court clerk) argued that the constitutional rights of his daughters Marie, 8, and Gathie, 9, were violated when they were expelled from Slip Hill Grade School near Charleston, W. In a landmark decision written by Justice Robert Jackson and announced on Flag Day, June 14, the Supreme Court sided with the Witnesses.“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,” Jackson said.