When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled (1940) that children MUST salute WHEN told to do so, with NO excuses, the phrase “freedom of the human mind” defended the minority, Jehovah’s Witnesses. The words were employed in the Court’s minority opinion. Today, the phrase “freedom of mind” is used to attack them! along with other ‘cults.’ It is an amazing reversal—from defending the rights of the minority from majority assault, to defending the rights of the majority from minority assault!
How does the minority pull off such a threatening stunt? Through ‘mind control’ and “brainwashing!’ It is an incredible charge and an 180 reversal of history! Freedomofmind.com is the url of the “cultexpert,” the founder of the BITE model, the means through which the nefarious minority manipulates members of the majority—through Behavioral control, Informational control, Thought control, and Emotional control. It is always someone else’s fault with these ‘anti-cultists’—its founder has progressed to calling half the country a victim of political mind-control! He’s not drunk too much of the Kool-Aid himself?
THAT is the takeaway point to be gleaned from the following article. It is not the point I had in mind when I initially wrote it. But it is the point that best endures:
I worked with Dave McClure the circuit overseer—I used to stick to those guys like glue—one fine morning in the 1980’s. “We’re just calling on our neighbors in order to....” he began. The householder glanced at the Michigan plates on his car—it didn’t exactly suggest to a New Yorker that the man was a neighbor. “Neighbor?” he said. But Dave was never ever at a loss for words. “Well, I’ve got to fly the flag!’ was his chipper comeback.
It was a perfect comeback. Michigan plates that year featured the most colorful backdrop of numerals against a flag that I have ever seen. Brother McClure was newly assigned to our circuit and hadn’t yet switched over his plates—you’re allowed a certain time interval to do so, I believe. I mean, it can’t be a requirement from the moment you cross the state line.
But it was a perfect comeback for another reason. When he was a boy, Dave McClure routinely got beat up by classmates for not flying the flag, or at least not saluting it. He told his experiences at a special assembly in Niagara Falls, New York. As only Brother McClure could do, he made getting beat up almost sound like fun—I mean, this is the fellow who, when in the presence of friends and confronted with something unexpected, would repeatedly and furiously move his hand from breastbone to abdomen and back again. He was just “staking himself,” taking no chances, as he would explain,
In 1940, the Minerville School District v Gobitis U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. Walter Gobitus was a Jehovah’s Witness whose child did not. Witnesses view declining the flag salute in any nation as a matter of avoiding idolatry. They connect the salute with God’s words to Moses that “you must not make for yourself...a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them...for I, Jehovah your God, am a God who requires exclusive devotion...”
Walter, then 10, had told the local school authorities: ''I do not salute the flag not because I do not love my country. I love my country, but I love God more, and must obey his commandments.'' Didn’t cut it with the Supreme Court.
The Court decision signaled open hunting season on Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mobs surrounded them in their public preaching work. Many were accosted. Some were tarred and feathered, some were forced to drink castor oil. At least one was lynched. They were rounded up in their ministry and crammed into local jails, sometimes without charge—they were contemptible enough in the eyes of respectable society so as to be denied the rights afforded everyone else. One brother tells of how he would always carry a toothbrush with him in the ministry so as not to be unprepared should he spend the night in the hoosegow.
Note the majority Supreme Court opinion of Justice Felix Frankfurter: “National unity is the basis of national security. To deny the legislature the right to select appropriate means for its attainment presents a totally different order of problem from that of the propriety of subordinating the possible ugliness of littered streets to the free expression opinion through handbills.” Note his contempt for the “possible ugliness of littered streets” from handbills, such as Witnesses were known for.
Justice Harlan Stone was the lone dissenter. He wrote that “the guarantees of civil liberty are but guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom and opportunity to express them .” Note how “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit” were presumed defenses for those who would think outside of the mainstream; note today how ‘anti-cultists’ have turned that logic on its head so that a ‘cult’ taking ones outside of the mainstream constitutes a violation of “the freedom of the human mind and spirit.”
Shortly thereafter, probably aghast at the violence they had unleashed, the Court had a change of heart. Three members signaled their changed views. Two others retired and were replaced by those thought more attuned to individual liberties. The matter came up for review again, wending its way though lesser courts until it ascended to the top Court. The plaintiffs in the case were named Barnett, Stull, and Lucy McClure. Dave was the young son of Lucy.
The decision reversed. The new majority opinion (released on June 3rd, Flag Day, 1943):
''If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein,'' Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote.
The new minority opinion , written by the former winner, now the loser, Felix Frankfurter, included the grumbling:
“As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases (there were many more besides those concerning flag salute) …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”
Yes, that’s how it is with governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. Witnesses cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The topic came up 45 years later. The first George Bush thought it a fine idea for teachers to lead their classes in mandatory flag salute. His electioneering opponent, Michael Dukakis, did not. The New York Times reviewed the JW items of decades past and even tracked down some of the original participants. “Mr. Gobitis,” it wrote, “now a 62-year-old piano tuner in Belgium, Wis., has followed the 1988 salute debate closely, and a bit disgustedly. ‘It's hard to comprehend why they're raising this issue again,’ he said. ‘They're ignoring our constitutional development and history.’ It reminded him, he said, of a passage in Chapter 16 of the Book of Revelations. ‘To Jehovah's Witnesses,’ he said, ‘all this political fanfare boils down to is 'the croaking of frogs and expressions inspired by demons.’”
And you know, I just can’t get over the reversed use of that phrase, “guarantees of freedom of the human mind and spirit and of reasonable freedom.” Then it was used to protect the minority from the majority. Today anti-cultists use it to protect the majority from the minority, lest ones of that minority ‘deceive’ them by ‘manipulation’ and ‘mind control.’
As for Dave McClure, my old Circuit Overseer, if he ever had thoughts about the 1988 brouhaha, he never shared them with me. But then, he would have moved on by then to another assignment—he served our circuit just around 1980. He passed away in Florida several years ago.