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Monday, June 13, 2022

NJ Discrimination Attorney, Has US Supreme Court Before Overturned Its Established Precedents?

As discussed prior, many persons who follow the evolution of the law as to the rights of employees and other individuals, wonder if the US Supreme Court in past years has overturned its own precedents. This concern arises in part from the recently leaked US Supreme Court Opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Opinion contains explanations purporting that it is not unusual for the Court to overturn long-standing precedents.

However, in almost all the cases cited to in the leaked Dobbs Opinion, that were cases which the Court had overturned, the cases were overturned for the purpose of expanding individual rights and a person’s personal freedoms, giving people more legal rights and personal autonomy free of government restrictions on their personal autonomy.

In the last article, two of such cases discussed in depth, were cases overturned for the purpose of expanding individual rights and giving individuals more legal rights and control of their personal autonomy free of government restrictions on their personal autonomy:

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) and the "separate but equal" doctrine which forced Blacks to attend “colored only” schools and forbade them from attending White schools.

Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967 ), the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously (9–0) struck down state antimiscegenation (interracial marriage) statutes which were a strict prohibition of a "white person" marrying any person other than a "white person". Loving v. Virginia mandated that a state could not prohibit a person from choosing to marry a person of a different race. The Court noted that, “The two statutes under which appellants were convicted and sentenced are part of a comprehensive statutory scheme aimed at prohibiting and punishing interracial marriage.”

Today we will look at another case cited to in the Dobbs Opinion, involving a government’s compelling school children to salute the flag, where the Court, rather than the government placing restrictions on an individual’s personal autotomy and freedom of choice, did the opposite and overturned a precedent, thereby expanding rights for a person’s individual autonomy and personal choice free of government restrictions:

West Virginia State Bd of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, (1943) overruled Minersville School District v. Gobitis 310 U.S. 586, (1940) and ruled that states and other governments could not force school children to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance if the family chose not to do so because of their religious beliefs.

WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION V. BARNETTE

In West Virginia State Bd of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, (1943) the Court set aside its precedent and overturned its decision in a similar case that it had decided three years earlier,  Minersville School District v. Gobitis 310 U.S. 586, (1940), and established a new legal precedent.

The Court ruled in West Virginia State Bd. of Education that a government and school board did not have the authority to require a salute to the flag or saying the Pledge of Allegiance if it violated the student’s religious beliefs. The Supreme Court overruled its prior ruling in Minersville School District and it held that the Board's actions compelling the flag salute and Pledge of Allegiance was far beyond the constitutional limitations of the Board’s power.

In overruling its precedent in Minersville School District, the US Supreme Court again expanded individual rights and personal freedoms, giving people more rights to personal autonomy free of government restrictions on their personal beliefs, autonomy and choices.

In the first case, Minersville School District, the Court ruled in favor of a government policy implemented by schools requiring children to salute the American flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance in classrooms. If the child refused to do so, it was an act of insubordination and the child could be expelled. The Gobitis children and their parents belonged to a religion that forbade pledging allegiance to the US flag and considered it a sinful act of idolatry. The Minersville Court ruled  that the government could require respect for the flag as a key symbol of national unity and a means of preserving national security which was important, and that a government and schools could enforce the flag salute and expel students who refused.

The local Board of Education of Minersville, PA. required both teachers and pupils to participate in pledging allegiance to the flag. The two children in this case, one aged twelve, and the other, aged ten, refused to salute the national flag as part of a daily school exercise because it was against their religion, and as a result they were expelled from the public schools. The ceremony required the right hand is placed on the breast and 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." The Court noted that the Gobitis family were affiliated with a religion for whom “the Bible as the Word of God is the supreme authority. The children had been brought up conscientiously to believe that such a gesture of respect for the flag was forbidden by command of Scripture.”

The Court’s rationale in Minersville was that the act of saluting the flag was not a form of worship and had no real bearing on what a pupil may think of his, “Creator or what are his relations to his Creator. Nor is a pupil required to exhibit his religious sentiments in a particular form of worship when saluting the flag, because the ceremony is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a form of worship."

The Minersville Court reasoned that the salute has no religious implications and requiring the flag salute was akin to requiring the study of history or civics, or requiring any other act which might teach loyalty to the State and National Government and make a pupil more patriotic.

The Minersville Court stated that national unity is the basis of national security. It framed the precise issue to be decided is whether state legislatures and county authorities and school districts are barred from determining the appropriateness of different means to “evoke that unifying sentiment without which there can ultimately be no liberties, civil or religious.” The Court reasoned that the state legislature had as much of a role in protecting liberty as the courts did and upheld the government’s right to enforce the flag salute or be expelled, which set a precedent allowing government restriction on personal autonomy that other courts had to follow at that time.

Three years later, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, (“West VA v. Barnette” the Supreme Court overruled its earlier Minersville decision. It set a new precedent and expanded individual rights and personal autonomy free of government restrictions on personal beliefs, autonomy and choices.

The two cases had similar fact patterns. In West VA v. Barnette, a Board of Education  enacted a regulation that required children in public schools to salute the American flag. A religious organization sought an injunction to restrain enforcement of the flag salute regulation. The US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia enjoined the enforcement of the Board's flag salute regulation. The Board of Education appealed.

In this matter, the religion of the parents and children considered the flag to be an "image," and the act of saluting constituted a type of worship forbidden by their religious beliefs. Children had been expelled from school for failing to salute the American flag, and parents of such children were threatened with prosecutions for causing the children’s delinquency. The Board of Education asserted that that it was not unconstitutional and that they had the power to impose such a flag salute requirement.

The West VA v. Barnette Supreme Court disagreed. Unlike its earlier ruling in Minersville, the West VA v. Barnette Supreme Court held that the flag salute was a form of “utterance” protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court overruled its earlier ruling in Minersville and held that the Board's actions compelling the flag salute and pledge was far beyond the constitutional limitations of the Board’s power.

The Supreme Court held that the Board did not have the right restrict a religious organization's and its members’ freedom as expressed under the First Amendment. The Court overruled its earlier ruling in Minersville and expanded individual rights and a person’s personal freedoms, giving people more legal rights and personal autonomy free of government restrictions on their personal autonomy.

If You Quit Your Job, You May Lose Right to Prevail in a Lawsuit

In many instances of discrimination, if you quit your job, you may lose right to prevail in a lawsuit unless you first take certain legally required measures to preserve your job while you are still employed. If you are thinking of quitting, or think you will be fired, you should contact this office immediately for a free consultation to discuss your options in the safest way for you.

What You Can Do

I am an aggressive and compassionate employment law attorney who is experienced in successfully representing persons who were discriminated against at work and was successful in recovering multiple six figure settlement moneys for them. If you are thinking of resigning, or think you will be fired, or have been fired, it is important that you consult with an attorney who is experienced in employment law. I am successful in bringing employee lawsuits against governmental entities and private employers and recovering money for victims of discrimination.

Hope A. Lang, Attorney at Law serves clients throughout New Jersey, including Bergen, Middlesex, Essex, Hudson, Monmouth, Ocean, Union, Camden, Passaic, and Morris Counties with locations in southern, central, western and northern NJ to meet with clients.

 


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