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Flag Salute and National Anthems

The Watchtower instructs its members not to salute or stand for national anthems, instead they need to show loyalty to the Watchtower organization, Jehovah’s chosen channel of communication. 

Not saluting the flag or standing for a national anthem is one of the hardest things that a young Jehovah Witnesses will have to cope with as it immediately sets them aside from the rest of their peer group. This causes the young Witness to feel left out, rejected and isolated from his peers. These feelings are hard to overcome and they have been found to have a severe detrimental effect on the young Witnesses mental health.

Awake! 1999 June 22 p.13 How Can I Cope With Being Taunted?

If you find that you are timid about making a defense of your faith, do not despair. Many Witness youths have felt the same way. "When I was in grade school," says Jamal, "I did not know how to explain to others why I did not celebrate holidays or salute the flag or even why I go out in the door-to-door ministry." What helped him? "My father kept working with me until I could finally explain these things, and this made a world of difference." If you have trouble explaining your beliefs to others, perhaps you can enlist the assistance of a parent or of another mature member of the Christian congregation to help you to gain a thorough grasp of the knowledge of God.—Ephesians 3:17-19.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1999 July 8 p.31 Seeds That Bore Fruit Many Years Later

I've just finished reading your story, and I had to write a letter to you. I knew your family years ago in Mississippi [1960-61]. In fact, I went to school with your sons, and I used to come over to your house and play with the boys quite frequently. But these were not the things that were the most deeply impressed on my young mind. Even at such a young age, I was very impressed by the fact that the boys did not salute the flag in school because of their Christian conscience. Although I was a member of the Grandview Baptist Church, when one of your boys explained his stand to me, I knew it was right.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1997 December 8 p.9 Child Custody—A Balanced View

The non-Witness may make an issue of celebrating birthdays, Christmas, or even Halloween. Some may complain that the child's association and social adjustment would be restricted if the child decided not to salute the flag. Or some may suggest that the child would be psychologically damaged by accompanying the parent in talking to others about the Bible. Some non-Witness parents have even alleged that the child's life would be endangered because the Witness parent would not give consent for the child to receive a blood transfusion.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1996 January 8 p.31 Jessica's Report

Jessica's Report

JESSICA, a 13-year-old girl from the United States, was assigned along with her classmates to give a speech on the theme "God, Flag, and Country." Knowing that her fellow students were curious about why she as one of Jehovah's Witnesses did not salute the flag, Jessica courageously took advantage of this opportunity to explain her beliefs. The following are excerpts from her report.

"At the beginning of each school day, students are asked to say the pledge of allegiance, but because of my beliefs and my religion, I do not. Many people wonder why. Now, I'll tell you.

"The first words of the flag salute are: 'I pledge allegiance to the flag.' Well, what is allegiance? It is the obligation of support, loyalty, and devotion. Since I have already pledged my allegiance to God, I cannot and will not pledge my allegiance to the flag. That I do not worship or pledge my allegiance to the flag, though, does not mean that I disrespect it.

"God is most important in my life. I try the best I can to follow his commandments as set out in the Bible. Every day I pray to him, and I also pray when I need extra help or encouragement. I always receive that help and encouragement at the right time. I have found that when I put God first and when I do the things he has commanded us to do, I am happier.

"So although I don't salute the flag, I do respect it and would not dishonor it in any way. But my allegiance is to God, and rightly so, because he created me and I owe that allegiance to him."

The students in Jessica's class were asked to evaluate the reports they heard. How happy Jessica was that as a result of her effort, fellow classmates said they had gained a better understanding of her beliefs. More important, youths who boldly speak up on behalf of Bible principles make Jehovah God's heart rejoice!—Proverbs 27:11.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1994 January 8 p.22 Philippine Supreme Court Upholds Freedom of Worship

Why Jehovah's Witnesses Do Not Salute the Flag

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that saluting a flag, singing a national anthem, and reciting a pledge of allegiance are religious acts. Their Bible-trained conscience does not permit them to participate in such acts of worship. (Matthew 4:10; Acts 5:29) No matter what country they live in, this is their stand in imitation of Jesus Christ, who said that his followers would be "no part of the world, just as [he was] no part of the world."—John 17:16.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1993 July 22 p.13 The Courage to Put God First

The Flag-Salute Issue Comes to the Fore

At the momentous 1935 Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, someone asked Brother Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society's president, about whether schoolchildren should salute the flag. He answered that it was unfaithfulness to God to ascribe salvation by saluting an earthly emblem; he said he wouldn't do it. This impressed Bill and me. We talked about it with our parents and looked up Exodus 20:4-6, 1 John 5:21, and Matthew 22:21. Mom and Dad never pressured us or made us feel guilty. When school opened in September, we were very much aware of what we ought to do. But every time our teachers looked our way, we sheepishly raised our arms and moved our lips. One of my problems was that I was afraid that my worldly school friends would drop me if I took my stand.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1992 September 22 p.11 Jehovah's Witnesses 'Delivered Up to Local Courts'

The court has ordered a new trial, saying: "[C]ustody may not be denied to a parent solely because she will not encourage her child to salute the flag, celebrate holidays, or participate in extracurricular activities. We reverse the trial court's custody and visitation orders because these decisions were improperly based on [the parent's] religious beliefs." As a result, this mother enjoyed attending the Memorial of Christ's death on April 17 with her son at her side in the Kingdom Hall.

[Emphasis Added]

School Brochure (1983) pp.12-16 Flag Salute, Anthems and Voting

Flag Salute, Anthems and Voting

Perhaps one of the most sensitive areas of our children's interaction with the schools involves patriotic observances. We realize that deep feelings may be involved, and we appreciate very much those teachers who handle the various situations with sensitivity and understanding. An explanation of why Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in patriotic observances may be helpful.


As you may appreciate, following a similar course of neutrality today affects our young people's participation in a number of school exercises and activities. What conscientious position on these matters have Jehovah's Witnesses taken earth wide?

The Flag Salute

Even though we do not salute the flag of any nation, this certainly is not meant to indicate disrespect. We do respect the flag of whatever country we live in, and we show this respect by obedience to the country's laws. We never engage in antigovernment activity of any kind. In fact, we believe that present human governments constitute an "arrangement of God" that he has temporarily permitted to exist. So we consider ourselves under divine command to pay taxes, tribute and honor to such "superior authorities."—Romans 13:1-7.

'But why, then,' you may ask, 'do you not honor the flag by saluting it?' It is because we view the flag salute as an act of worship. Although we do not discourage others from saluting the flag, we cannot conscientiously give what we view as worship to anyone or anything except our God, Jehovah. (Matthew 4:10) Of course, many people do not consider the flag sacred or that saluting it is an act of worship.


We would like to emphasize that we intend no disrespect for any government or its rulers by our refusal to salute the flag. It is just that we will not, in an act of worship, bow down to or salute an image representing the State, like the one Nebuchadnezzar raised up in the plain of Dura, or like the modern flags of the nations. (Daniel 3:1-30) Significantly, the Supreme Court of the United States, in a historic reversal of a previous decision, stated:

"We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control."—West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943).

So then, while others salute and pledge allegiance, our children stand quietly during the flag salute ceremony. But if, for some reason, the flag ceremony is conducted in such a way that simply standing gives evidence of one's participation in the ceremony, our young ones remain seated. In addition, our youths do not march in patriotic parades, which would show their support of the thing honored by the parade. We remain neutral.

National Anthems and School Songs

A national anthem often is, in effect, a hymn or a prayer set to music. The Encyclopedia Americana (1956) says: "Love of fatherland and pride in one's country are the keynotes of most national anthems, and in many, religious feeling is blended with patriotic sentiment." Actually, patriotic songs express the same fundamental ideas that are embodied in the pledge of allegiance to the flag. And since there is no Scriptural basis for the nationalistic pride that has so divided our world, we do not join in singing songs that extol any earthly nation.—Acts 17:26; John 17:15, 16.

When national anthems are played, usually all that a person has to do to show that he shares the sentiments of the song is to stand up. In such cases, Witness youths remain seated. However, if our youths are already standing when the national anthem is played, they would not have to take the special action of sitting down; it is not as though they had specifically stood up for the anthem. On the other hand, if a group are expected to stand and sing, then our young people may rise and stand out of respect. But they would show that they do not share the sentiments of the song by refraining from singing.

Do school songs come into the same category as national anthems? Yes, they are viewed the same way by those in the school as national anthems are by the nations. They are often sung with religious fervor and with cheers. Our youths do not share the sentiments of such songs.


[Blurb on page 12]

"They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world."—John 17:16

[Blurb on page 13]

Jehovah's Witnesses view the flag salute as an act of worship

[Blurb on page 14]

"Christians refused to . . . sacrifice to the [Roman] emperor's genius-roughly equivalent today to refusing to salute the flag"

[Picture on page 15]

As faithful Hebrew youths refused to worship an image of the State, so Jehovah's Witnesses do not salute the flag

[Picture on page 16]

Witness youths do not mix in school politics

[Emphasis Added]

Education brochure (1995) pp.20-4 Moral Values That Merit Respect

The Flag Salute

Jehovah's Witnesses are not generally the target of such bitter persecution today. Nevertheless, misunderstandings sometimes arise as a result of young Witnesses' conscientious decision not to share in patriotic ceremonies, such as the flag salute.

Children of Jehovah's Witnesses are taught not to discourage others from saluting the flag; that is for each individual to decide. The position of the Witnesses themselves, however, is firm: They do not salute the flag of any nation. This is certainly not intended to indicate disrespect. They do respect the flag of whatever country they live in, and they show this respect by obedience to the country's laws. They never engage in antigovernment activity of any kind. In fact, Witnesses believe that present human governments constitute an "arrangement of God" that he has permitted to exist. So they consider themselves to be under divine command to pay taxes and to respect such "superior authorities." (Romans 13:1-7) This is in line with Christ's famous statement: "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar—and to God what belongs to God."—Matthew 22:21, Catholic Jerusalem Bible.

'But why, then,' some may ask, 'do Jehovah's Witnesses not honor the flag by saluting it?' It is because they view the flag salute as an act of worship, and worship belongs to God; they cannot conscientiously give worship to anyone or anything except God. (Matthew 4:10; Acts 5:29) Therefore, they appreciate it when educators respect this conviction and allow Witness children to abide by their beliefs.

Not surprisingly, Jehovah's Witnesses are not alone in believing that the flag salute is related to worship, as the following comments show:

"Early flags were almost purely of a religious character. . . . The aid of religion seems ever to have been sought to give sanctity to national flags." (Italics ours.)—Encyclopædia Britannica.

"The flag, like the cross, is sacred. . . . The rules and regulations relative to human attitude toward national standards use strong, expressive words, as, 'Service to the Flag,' . . . 'Reverence for the Flag,' 'Devotion to the Flag.'" (Italics ours.)—The Encyclopedia Americana.

"Christians refused to . . . sacrifice to the [Roman] emperor's genius—roughly equivalent today to refusing to salute the flag or repeat the oath of allegiance."—Those About to Die (1958), by Daniel P. Mannix, page 135.

Again, Jehovah's Witnesses intend no disrespect for any government or its rulers by a refusal to salute the flag. It is just that they will not, in an act of worship, bow down to or salute an image representing the State. They view it as similar to the stand taken in Bible times by three young Hebrew men who refused to bow down before the statue raised up on the plain of Dura by Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. (Daniel, chapter 3) So then, while others salute and pledge allegiance, children of Jehovah's Witnesses are taught to follow their Bible-trained consciences. Thus, they silently and respectfully refrain from participating. For similar reasons, Witness children choose not to participate when national anthems are sung or played.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry September 1971 p.2 Your Service Meetings

13 min: Parents Help Children Starting School. (Demonstration)

(3 min.) Chairman: September is month most children start back to school. Often there will be new teachers, new classrooms, new situations to cope with in getting started back to school. Parents may find it advisable to accompany their children or arrange to speak with the teacher or principal at an early opportunity. Arrangements can be made to have children excused from participation in flag salute, holiday programs, etc.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry July 1975 p.2 Your Service Meetings

(1) As shown in the booklet Loyalty, why do Jehovah's witnesses refuse to salute the flag? (Pp. 168, 169)

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry November 1977 p.4 Theocratic School Schedule for 1978

No. 4: td 20E "Why Do the Witnesses Refuse to Salute the Flag?"

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry October 1983 p.2 Make Disciples of Your Children

5 Now that your children are back to school, have you equipped them with the spiritual armor that they need in order to "quench all the wicked one's burning missiles"? (Eph. 6:16) Do they understand basic issues they may face, such as Christian neutrality, flag salute, holidays and evolution, clearly enough so that they can logically explain them to others? As they grow older, are you equipping them to make the right decisions regarding bad associations, dating, drugs and sexual immorality? It will not be easy, but by diligent effort you can succeed in helping them to grow spiritually throughout their school years.—Phil. 4:13.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry January 1984 p.2 Meetings to Help Us Make Disciples

30 min: Neutrality Toward Political Affairs. Consideration of material in the School brochure, pages 12-16, under the subject of "Flag Salute, Anthems and Voting." Have a well-prepared, qualified elder handle this. It is important for us to have our Scriptural position on these issues clearly in mind. Consider the opening portion of this section of the brochure by means of a talk. Jesus' example and his teachings set the pattern for all Christians, including youths. Consider the significance of John 6:15; 17:16 and John 18:36. Also, consider what the textbooks say about the neutral position of early Christians.

Allow sufficient time to discuss the material under the subheadings "The Flag Salute," "National Anthems and School Songs," and "Elective Offices and Positions." Draw attention to the sound Scriptural basis for not saluting and not singing in connection with patriotic services. Help the brothers to reason on whether it is Scripturally proper to stand or not to stand for patriotic services on certain occasions. Reason with the brothers as to why it is appropriate that Witness youths keep free from school politics. Loyalty to God's organization is shown by such conformity. Highlight such matters in the discussion. The material, after the opening talk, could be handled principally by questions and answers.

[Emphasis Added]

Kingdom Ministry September 1985 p.3 What Will You Do in School This Year?


6 Why not take the brochure with you to school? If your teacher does not have a copy, make one available. Show how things are outlined forthrightly but briefly, and explain that you would appreciate having the teacher read the brochure to become familiar with what to expect of your conduct throughout the school year. This can save you many difficulties in connection with flag salute ceremonies, holidays, and other situations.

[Emphasis Added]

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