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He even claimed Social Security numbers were the “mark of the beast” foretold in Revelations.The Catholic Church, said Rutherford, was a “racket,” and Protestants and Jews were “great simpletons,” taken in by the Catholic hierarchy to “carry on her commercial, religious traffic and increase her revenues.” Complaints about unwelcome public proselytizing by Witnesses led to frequent run-ins with state and local authorities and hundreds of appearances in lower courts.Every day in court for Rutherford and the Witnesses’ chief attorney, Hayden Covington, was an opportunity to preach the true meaning of law to the judges and to confront the satanic government.

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1/27/2011 • American History Jehovah’s Witnesses were unlikely champions of religious freedom.

One of the most momentous cases on the Supreme Court docket as war raged globally in 1943 was about a single sentence said aloud by schoolchildren every day. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a religious sect renowned for descending en masse on small towns or city neighborhoods and calling on members of other faiths to “awake” and escape the snare of the devil and his minions, felt otherwise.

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.

They stood, held their right hands over their hearts or in a raised-arm salute and began, “I pledge allegiance to the flag…” To most Americans the pledge was a solemn affirmation of national unity, especially at a time when millions of U. They insisted that pledging allegiance to the flag was a form of idolatry akin to the worship of graven images prohibited by the Bible. Barnette, Walter Barnett (whose surname was misspelled by a court clerk) argued that the constitutional rights of his daughters Marie, 8, and Gathie, 9, were violated when they were expelled from Slip Hill Grade School near Charleston, W. In a landmark decision written by Justice Robert Jackson and announced on Flag Day, June 14, the Supreme Court sided with the Witnesses.