The Stone Court (1941–46)

First Amendment

What was the subject matter of the decision that Justice Stone announced when he fell ill?

Chief Justice Harlan Fiske Stone became fatally ill on the bench while reading from his dissent in Girouard v. United States (1946), an immigration case. The decision concerned whether Canadian James Louis Girouard could become a U.S. citizen when he stated that he would not bear arms for the United States for religious reasons. Girouard said he would be loyal to the country but that his religion (Seventh Day Adventist) prevented him from combat duty. The Court majority reasoned that Girouard could become a citizen, writing: “Refusal to bear arms is not necessarily a sign of disloyalty or a lack of attachment to our country.”

Chief Justice Stone, along with two other justices, dissented. He reasoned that the 1931 U.S. Supreme Court decisions of U.S. v. Schwimmer, U.S. v. Macintosh, and U.S. v. Bland controlled. In those opinions, the Court denied citizenship to individuals who would not bear arms in defense of the United States.


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