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Jehovah's Witness & Religious Liberty

Index of Court Cases

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Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940)
The Court ruled that the statute requiring a license to solicit for religious purposes was a prior restraint that vested the state with excessive power in determining which groups must obtain a license.

Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940)
In an 8-1 Court Decision, the Court ruled that a school district's interest in creating national unity was sufficient to allow them to require students to salute the flag.

Cox v. New Hampshire (1941)
The Court unanimously upheld the convictions of Jehovah's Witnesses for engaging in a public parade without a license.

Jones v. Opelika I (1942)
The Court upheld a statute prohibiting the selling of literature without a license because it only covered individuals engaged in an commercial activity rather than a religious ritual.

Jones v. Opelika II (1943)
The Court ruled the practice of charging a flat fee for people distributing literature was unconstitutional. The freedom of press was not to be restricted only to those who can afford to pay the licensing fee.

Douglas v. City of Jeannette (1943)
The Supreme Court refused to prevent the City of Jeannette, Pennsylvania, from threatening prosecution of Jehovah's Witnesses who were violating a law requiring the licensing of people selling books even while that law was being challenged before the Supreme Court.

Murdock v. Pennsylvania (1943)
The Court found that the Jeanette ordinance requiring solicitors to purchase a license from the borough was an unconstitutional tax on the Jehovah's Witnesses' right to freely exercise their religion.

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)
The Court ruled 8-1 that a school district violated the rights of students by forcing them to salute the American flag.

Follett v. Town of McCormick (1944)
Should people who earn their living by selling or distributing religious materials be required to pay the same licensing fees and taxes as are expected of those who sell or distribute non-religious materials? The Supreme Court held that such licenses are unconstitutional.

Prince v. Massachusetts (1944)
In a 5-4 Court Decision, the Court upheld Massachusetts' restriction on the abilities of children to sell religious literature.

Watchtower Society v. Village of Stratton (2001)
Should people going door-to-door for solicitations, canvassing, etc. be required to get a permit first? The Jehovah's Witnesses don't think so, and challenged just such a law in the Village of Stratton, Ohio. The 6th Circuit Court decided against them, but the case will soon be decided by the Supreme Court.

Major Sources:

The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. Kermit L. Hall, ed.

The Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions. Kermit L. Hall, ed.

The Godless Court? Supreme Court Decisions on Church-State Relationships. Ronald B. Flowers.

The Godless Constitution: The Case Against Religious Correctness. Isaac Kramnick & R. Laurence Moore.

The Constitution and Religion: Leading Supreme Court Cases on Church and State. Robert S. Alley

The Supreme Court on Church and State. Robert S. Alley

Back To: Court Decisions on Religious Liberty (main page)

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