Letter: Mandatory participation isn't freedom

To the editor:

During the darkest days of the Second World War, when the Board of Education in West Virginia deemed compulsory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to be a necessary demonstration of patriotism, a case was brought on behalf of two young students who were Jehovah's Witnesses. In deference to their faith, they had refused to salute the flag. For that refusal, they were expelled, which made them unlawfully absent, subjecting them to delinquency proceedings and their parents to criminal prosecution.

Associate Justice Robert Jackson, speaking for a majority of the Supreme Court in the Barnett case, held this officially mandated uniformity to be unconstitutional. In an affirmation, for all times, of what truly makes America great, he wrote, in part, "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 manners of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or deed their faith therein."


— Deborah and John Williams



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