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Douglas, Frank Murphy and Hugo Black—publicly signaled in a separate case that they thought Gobitis had been “wrongly decided.” When Barnette reached the Supreme Court in 1943, Harlan Stone, the lone dissenter in Gobitis, had risen to chief justice.The facts of the two cases mirrored each other, but the outcome differed dramatically.He even claimed Social Security numbers were the “mark of the beast” foretold in Revelations.
Russell died in 1916; he was succeeded by his lawyer Joseph Franklin Rutherford, who shrewdly emphasized that the Apocalypse was near, but not so near that Witnesses didn’t have time to convert new followers, which they were required to do lest they miss out on salvation.
Most important, in ruling that Witness children could not be forced to recite the pledge, the new majority rejected the notion that legislatures, rather than the courts, were the proper place to address questions involving religious liberty.
The “very purpose” of the Bill of Rights, wrote Justice Robert Jackson, was to protect some issues from the majority rule of politics.
The Witnesses insisted that God’s law demanded they refrain from all pledges of allegiance to earthly governments.
They tested the nation’s tolerance of controversial beliefs and led to an increasing recognition that a willingness to embrace religious diversity is what distinguishes America from tyrannical regimes.