Interview with Gathie Barnett Edmonds, 2003
Gathie Barnett Edmonds explains why, as a Jehovah's Witness, she refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance while a student in 1942, and describes her experience of getting sent home.
- Religious Liberty
- Supreme Court
In 1942, West Virginia made saluting the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance required in public schools. There were penalties for students who refused to comply. Gathie Barnett and her sister, Marie, were Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian sect that forbids its members from "worshipping" any idols, including flags. After they were repeatedly sent home from school for refusing to pledge allegiance, they sued, and eventually the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that their actions were protected by the First Amendment.
This interview took place 60 years after the Supreme Court decision, when she was in her 70s. The Robert H. Jackson Center, which conducted the interview, honors the life and legacy of the Supreme Court justice who wrote the majority opinion in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. (The title of the case has an "e" at the end of Barnett because a clerk misspelled their name).