Theodore's World: Pledge of Confusion? Schools Wrestle With Flag Policy in Classroom

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September 17, 2009

Pledge of Confusion? Schools Wrestle With Flag Policy in Classroom

Pledge of Confusion? Schools Wrestle With Flag Policy in Classroom

FOX News

It's a new school year, but an old fight is brewing in American classrooms. Teachers and administrators around the country are scratching their heads once again over the Pledge of Allegiance.

The courts have consistently ruled that students have the right not to recite the pledge in public schools. But now some First Amendment advocates are taking it one step further, arguing that the law compels educators to inform kids at the beginning of school that the decision is entirely up to them.

They're advocating a "Miranda warning" for the Pledge -- an administrative notice to students that they have the right to remain silent.

“The Pledge of Allegiance creates a constitutional problem. You have to tell students they can opt out,” the Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told FOX News.

New Mexico dealt with this question last month when its education secretary upheld that students are permitted to opt out of the Pledge, but rejected an ACLU-backed amendment that would require schools to inform parents and students that they have the option.

In Florida, schools have tried to resolve uncertainty by announcing a new policy — students don't have to participate, as long as they have a letter from Mom and Dad.

These are just the latest in a litany of challenges to the Pledge and its place in the classroom.

Americans have recited the tribute to the stars and stripes since the oath was written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, in 1892. But Bellamy's pledge did not include the words "under God," which were added by Congress in 1954 during the McCarthy era, when Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union — an atheist nation — were high in the United States.

Thirty-six states now have laws requiring that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited daily in public schools. But the oath as it's written does not sit well with some Americans.

“The Pledge doesn’t even state the truth. We are not one nation under God," Lynn said. "I don’t think we should lie to students, and there’s no way we can require them to say it.”
But supporters of the Pledge insist that the words are both constitutional and an important part of our national heritage.
“There has been a recurring effort by the ACLU and others to try to stop the Pledge of Allegiance from being said. The fact of the matter is that the American people like the Pledge of Allegiance, they like it the way it is,” Phyllis Schlafly, founder of the Eagle Forum, told
“The teachers are government employees, their paychecks are paid by the taxpayers, and the American people support the Pledge. I’m with the American people,” Schlafly said.

The majority of Americans do, in fact, overwhelmingly support the Pledge of Allegiance in its current form. A FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll from November of 2005 showed that 90 percent of Americans approve of the oath. Only 7 percent of people polled said they would change the language of the Pledge, while three percent of Americans were undecided.

The Pledge's popularity aside, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that mandating a student to participate in the oath was an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Now the ACLU and other critics of the Pledge are taking the dispute a step further — arguing that students, whether they do or don't support the oath, should be told up front that they are not required to recite the words.

They lost the first round in New Mexico last month, when state Education Secretary Veronica Garcia ruled not to change state policy — which requires that the Pledge be recited daily — to inform students of their right to opt out.

"The department believes that the existing rule and practice in schools respects the rights of all students," Garcia said a statement. "Any issues related to rights of students will be handled at the local school district level," the statement read.

New Mexico ACLU Director Peter Simonson protested the ruling, telling the Associated Press, "I think it's a cop-out not to affirmatively state that students have a First Amendment right not to participate in the Pledge." Simonson declined to elaborate when contacted by

In Florida, ACLU attorney Randall Marshall successfully argued a case before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in defense of high school student, Cameron Frazier, who abstained from reciting the Pledge because of “personal political beliefs” and, according to the lawsuit, was “singled out and humiliated” by his teacher.

“We made the case that students must be informed that they are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” Marshall told
"It’s not a challenge to the content of the Pledge. Only that students be informed that they are not required to recite it."

The following words were spoken by the late Red Skelton on his television program as he related the story of his teacher, Mr. Laswell, who felt his students had come to think of the Pledge of Allegiance as merely something to recite in class each day.

I've been listening to you boys and girls recite the Pledge of Allegiance all semester and it seems as though it is becoming monotonous to you. If I may, may I recite it and try to explain to you the meaning of each word?"

I - - Me; an individual; a committee of one.

Pledge - - Dedicate all of my worldly goods to give without self-pity.

Allegiance - - My love and my devotion.

To the Flag - - Our standard; Old Glory ; a symbol of Freedom; wherever she waves there is respect, because your loyalty has given her a dignity that shouts, Freedom is everybody's job.

United - - That means that we have all come together.

States - - Individual communities that have united into forty-eight great states. Forty-eight individual communities with pride and dignity and purpose. All divided with imaginary boundaries, yet united to a common purpose, and that is love for country.

And to the Republic - - Republic--a state in which sovereign power is invested in representatives chosen by the people to govern. And government is the people; and it's from the people to the leaders, not from the leaders to the people.

For which it stands

One Nation - - One Nation--meaning, so blessed by God.

Indivisible - - Incapable of being divided.

With Liberty - - Which is Freedom; the right of power to live one's own life, without threats, fear, or some sort of retaliation.

And Justice - - The principle, or qualities, of dealing fairly with others.

For All - - For All--which means, boys and girls, it's as much your country as it is mine.

And now, boys and girls, let me hear you recite the Pledge of Allegiance:

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic, for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn't it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, too?

----Red Skelton

"Sure I wave the American flag. Do you know a better flag to wave?
Sure I love my country with all her faults.
I'm not ashamed of that, never have been and never will be." --- John Wayne.


Wild Thing's comment........

I love it in school when we recited the Pledge, we stood by our desks and faced our Flag. All of us puttng our hand over our heart. I still love how it feels and always will.

....Thank you Richard for sending this to me.

Posted by Wild Thing at September 17, 2009 05:47 AM


"majority of Americans"
I see...."majority" only applies if you're on the progressive side of an issue. Kinda like that "Dissent is patriotic" thing.
Jehovah Witnesses have been allowed not to participate for years, as it goes against their beliefs of not pledging to or honoring anything of the world.
If it was just a first amendment fight, it would be one thing. But those of us who have been watching this sort of thing and the players all know it's more an anti-American statement.
I most certainly do question their patriotism and they keep giving the same answer.

Posted by: yankeemom at September 17, 2009 08:11 AM

The Pledge is a very important part of your "civic duties" as a child. Today is Constitution day. Every American must learn how America works and do what they can to make it a better place. But civics isn't taught anymore. It's about as archaic as Latin. And that is sad. I remember we stopped saying the pledge in Jr high because we didn't have a home room anymore. And not one parent said anything about it. That was very sad as well.

Posted by: Lynn at September 17, 2009 08:25 AM

As a taxpayer I would gladly support anti-Americans to be given a one way ticket to the place of their choice outside of America. If citizens they would have to concede for ever their citizenship. None of these people would ever be allowed back in.

Posted by: TomR at September 17, 2009 12:43 PM

Yankeemom, I question their patriotism
too. These schools are more and more
becoming politial agenda ridden instead
of teaching places.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 18, 2009 12:24 AM

Lynn, thank you so much for that
information. You know more what is
going on with schools now than I would.
I appreciate it so much.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 18, 2009 12:27 AM

Tom, I vote for that, yessss I would.

Posted by: Wild Thing at September 18, 2009 12:31 AM