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Requiring Students to Stand for Anthem Judged Unconstitutional

Aug. 29, 1963 - A federal judge ruled in Phoenix today that a school board decision requiring students to stand during the singing of the national anthem is unconstitutional. The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge William Mathes of Los Angeles was a victory for three youths expelled two years ago from Pinetop Elementary School in northeastern Arizona. Mr. and Mrs. George Sheldon and Mr. and Mrs. Merle Wingo, parents of the children, had filed the suit asking the court to compel the Pinetop School Board to readmit the students. The families are members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect. The judge found no merit to the contention that standing for the national anthem is a religious exercise, which the children and their parents said violated their beliefs. However, Mathes said: “The key to our freedom of expression is that there is individual freedom to believe, to speak, and to act with everyone who, living under protection of our flag, can enjoy more individual freedom and liberty than anywhere else on earth. Protection must extend to the most unreasonable dissenter, no matter how unfounded or ludicrous his action may seem to others.”

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