All the petitioners in the original case were minor school children, and members of the sect, Jehovah’s Witnesses (assisted by their parents) who were expelled from their classes by various public school authorities in Cebu for refusing to salute the flag, sing the national anthem and recite the patriotic pledge as required by Republic Act No. 1265 of July 11, 1955 and by Department Order No. 8, dated July 21, 1955 issued by the Department of Education. Aimed primarily at private educational institutions which did not observe the flag ceremony exercises, Republic Act No. 1265 penalizes all educational institutions for failure or refusal to observe the flag ceremony with public censure on first offense and cancellation of the recognition or permit on second offense.
Does refusal to take part in the flag ceremony, on account of religious belief, so offensive as to prompt legitimate state intervention?
No. While conceding to the idea adverted to by the Solicitor General that certain methods of religious expression may be prohibited to serve legitimate societal purposes, refusal to participate in the flag ceremony hardly constitutes a form of religious expression so offensive and noxious as to prompt legitimate State intervention. It bears repeating that their absence from the ceremony hardly constitutes a danger so grave and imminent as to warrant the state’s intervention. In the case of a regulation which appears to abridge a right to which the fundamental law accords high significance it is the regulation, not the act (or refusal to act), which is the exception and which requires the court’s strictest scrutiny. In the case at bench, the government has not shown that refusal to do the acts of conformity exacted by the assailed orders, which respondents point out attained legislative cachet in the Administrative Code of 1987, would pose a clear and present danger of a danger so serious and imminent, that it would prompt legitimate State intervention.