I refuse to salute the flag

Jehovah’s Witness Billy Gobitas was just 10 years old when he wrote the following letter to the board of his school in Pennsylvania. A few weeks previous, Billy had refused to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag during school, on the basis that it violated a commandment in Exodus 20:4-6. Both Billy and his sister, who also refused just a day later, were expelled from the school on November 6th 1935. 5 years later the U.S. Supreme Court backed the decision and ruled that schools could compel pupils to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag – irrespective of their religious beliefs – and ignited a period of widespread violence and discrimination against Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They then overruled the decision three years later.


Minersville, PA.
Nov. 5, 1935

Our School Directors
Dear Sirs

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. In the twentieth chapter of Exodus it is stated, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, nor bow down to them nor serve them for I the Lord they God am a jealous God visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. I am a true follower of Christ. I do not salute the flag not because I do not love my country but I love my country and I love God more and I must obey His commandments.

Your pupil,

Billy Gobitas