“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.” Jehovah’s Witnesses were unlikely champions of religious freedom.
The sect’s leaders denounced all other religions and all secular governments as tools of the devil, and preached the imminence of the Apocalypse, during which no one except Jehovah’s Witnesses would be spared.
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.
But their persistence in fighting in the courts for their beliefs had a dramatic impact on constitutional law.