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Principal in Landmark Flag-Salute Case

February 12, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ Retired educator Donald McGlothlin, 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. He was 74.

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.

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.

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.

He said that after his father did not force her to salute the flag and did not expel her he was brought before the 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.

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.″

Ms. 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 was hired as a teacher in 1954 at Taft High School in Chicago, where he worked until he retired from full-time teaching about eight years ago.

McGlothlin is survived by his wife, Grace, and three other children, Hope, Gerald and Mark.

A memorial service was scheduled for Sunday at Community Presbyterian Church in Wheeling.

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