Happy Flag Day
On this day we celebrate the Barnette decision. West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on flag day, 1943, overturning a law which made it compulsory for students to salute the flag and recite the pledge of allegiance. (The law made parents and guardians of students who disobeyed subject to prosecution – not that this was the reason for overturning the law.) The Barnette family were Jehova’s Witnesses, who believe that saluting the flag and reciting the pledge of allegiance is placing a temporal power above God; they take the command in Exodus as applying to the pledge and salute: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.” It seems to me that secular people who resent being required to say the pledge or to salute the flag generally hold the same reason against it, albeit in a more abstract sense.
Thanks to Carolyn Caywood for commemorating this decision on the ALA Council listserv.
Happy flag day.