The Hughes Court (1930–41)

First Amendment

Who was the Court’s lone dissenter in the Gobitis decision?

Justice Harlan Fiske Stone filed the Court’s lone dissent in Gobitis. He believed that the law infringed on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ free-exercise of religion rights. Stone wrote: “Even if we believe that such compulsions [as saluting the flag] will contribute to national unity, there are other ways to teach loyalty and patriotism which are the sources of national unity, than by compelling the pupil to affirm that which he does not believe and by … commanding a form of affirmance which violates his religious convictions.” Stone’s view would eventually prevail when he became chief justice, as the Stone Court struck down a West Virginia flag-salute law by a vote of 6–3 in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette.


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