CALHOUN EDUCATOR DON MCGLOTHLIN DIES 1988 - Fired By Calhoun Schools In 1943 Over Flag Salute

Refused to Expel Student Who Balked at Pledge of Allegiance : Donald McGlothlin; Flag Salute Decision February 13, 1988|From Chicago Times Wire Services

CHICAGO — The educator whose refusal to expel a student for not saluting the flag the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor led to a landmark Supreme Court decision has died.

Donald McGlothlin, who lived in suburban Wheeling, died of undetermined causes Wednesday at the Veteran's Administration's Lakeside Medical Center in Chicago, said his son, Paul. He was 74.

McGlothlin's actions as principal of Calhoun County High School in Grantsville, W. Va., prompted the Supreme Court's West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette decision in 1943.

1940s Ruling Reversed

In that decision, the court reversed its own 1940 ruling and said public schools violated some students' religious freedom by forcing them to join in the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.

Before the ruling, West Virginia schoolchildren were subject to expulsion and delinquency proceedings for being "unlawfully absent" if they refused to participate in the flag salute.

At a patriotic assembly on Dec. 8, 1941, a student, Lavaughn Kelley, a Jehovah's Witness, refused to salute the flag on the basis of her religious beliefs.

Paul McGlothlin said that after his father did not force her to salute the flag and did not expel her, he was brought before the Calhoun Board of Education and forced to resign.

"He believed that everybody should salute the flag, but not because they're forced to. He felt that would undermine democracy," Paul McGlothlin said.

Several families of Jehovah's Witnesses then challenged the school board policy and the case went on to the nation's highest court.

Considered a False Idol

Diane Geraghty of Glencoe, president of the Illinois chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Jehovah's Witnesses "consider the flag a false idol, and they do not salute."

Geraghty, a professor of constitutional law at Loyola University in Chicago, said that although the basic issue in the case could be considered one of religious liberty, it was actually decided on the "freedom of speech" clauses in the U.S. Constitution.

McGlothlin enlisted in the Navy in 1942 and served in the Pacific during World War II. He moved to Chicago in 1954 and was hired as a teacher at Taft High School, where he remained until retiring in the late 1970s.