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West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette

The most important U.S. Supreme Court legal victory won by the Jehovah's Witnesses was in the case West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, in which the court ruled that school children could not be forced to pledge allegiance or salute the U.S. flag. This decision, issued on Flag Day June 14, 1943 made an important contribution to later decisions concerning burning the flag.

In the majority decision, Associate Justice Robert Jackson wrote:

"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."

The Barnette decision overturned an earlier case, Minersville School District vs. Gobitis (1940), in which the court had held that Witnesses could be forced against their will to pay homage to the flag.