Letter from Billy Gobitas to Minersville, Pennsylvania, school directors, November 5, 1935
In 1935 a Pennsylvania public school expelled 10-year-old Billy Gobitas for refusing to salute the American flag. His letter to the school board explained that as a Jehovah’s Witness he believed pledging allegiance to the flag violated his commitment to God. In 1943 the Supreme Court upheld the right not to recite the pledge on religious principle.
I do not salute the flag because I have promised to do the will of God. That means that I must not worship anything out of harmony with God’s law.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
Citizens of the United States, diverse in their backgrounds and beliefs, are united by adherence to principles of liberty and justice symbolized by the American flag. A pledge written for an 1892 Columbus Day celebration became the official affirmation of national loyalty in 1942 when Congress included it in flag legislation. In 1943 the Supreme Court upheld a citizen’s right to follow individual conscience and beliefs in choosing whether or not to recite this pledge.