[310 U.S. 586, 587] Mr. Joseph W. Henderson, of Philadelphia, Pa., for petitioners.
[310 U.S. 586, 588] Messrs. George K. Gardner, of Boston, Mass., and Joseph F. Rutherford, of Brooklyn, N.Y., for respondents.
Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.
A grave responsibility confronts this Court whenever in course of litigation it must reconcile the conflicting claims of liberty and authority. But when the liberty invoked is liberty of conscience, and the authority is authority to safeguard the nation's fellowship, judicial conscience is put to its severest test. Of such a nature is the present controversy.
Lillian Gobitis, aged twelve, and her brother William, aged ten, were expelled from the public schools of Minersville, Pennsylvania, for refusing to salute the national flag as part of a daily school exercise. The local Board of Education required both teachers and pupils to participate in this ceremony. The ceremony is a familiar one. The right hand is placed on the breast and the following pledge recited in unison: 'I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the Republic for which it stands; one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.' While the words are spoken, teachers and pupils extend their right hands in salute to the flag. The Gobitis family are affiliated with 'Jehovah's Witnesses', for whom the Bible as the Word of God is the supreme authority. The chil- [310 U.S. 586, 592] dren had been brought up conscientiously to believe that such a gesture of respect for the flag was forbidden by command of scripture.