Friday, June 2, 2006

Patriotic Inaction

Here’s another story that is sure to get Bill O’Reilly riled up.

A federal judge has declared a state law requiring students to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp also declared students do not need a parent’s permission to be excused from reciting the pledge, citing previous federal cases.

“It is a long-standing rule of constitutional law that a student may remain quietly seated during the pledge on grounds of personal or political belief,” Ryskamp stated in his ruling based on a lawsuit filed by a Boynton Beach High School student who had refused to stand for the pledge.

Cameron Frazier, then a 17-year-old junior, was told by teacher Cynthia Alexandre that he was “so ungrateful and so un-American” after he twice refused to stand for the pledge in her classroom on Nov. 8, the lawsuit said.

Frazier’s lawsuit did not challenge the recital of the pledge in Florida classrooms, only students’ right not to participate.


But the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state Board of Education and state Education Commissioner John Winn, challenging a state law that says the pledge needs to be recited at the beginning of the day at all elementary, middle and high schools.

“This is a decision about freedom and freedom in America means your right to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance or your right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida ACLU. “The impact that we hope this decision will have is that school officials begin to respect the conscience and dignity of young people.”

The Pledge of Allegiance is recited every morning at all Miami-Dade County elementary and secondary schools.

However, students have a choice. They can stand or sit in silence if they choose not to recite it for religious or personal convictions, said Joseph Garcia, a spokesman for Miami Dade Public Schools.


Simon said that was in line with what the Supreme Court ruled in 1943.

“The Supreme Court ruled that a person can’t be compelled to professing allegiance,” he said. “Their rule respects the right of the student.”

During my last tenure as a teacher, I got called on the carpet by the principal for not putting my hand over my heart and reciting the pledge out loud. I explained that I was on firm legal and moral ground by exercising my choice not to engage in coerced patriotism, that as a Quaker I didn’t believe in ritualistic idol worship, and if the seniors in my homeroom hadn’t already formulated an opinion that the morning pledge is a true affirmation of their patriotism or a mindless recitation of a ritual learned in kindergarten, seeing me participate in my own way wasn’t going to irreparably harm them.

What I want to know is why do some people think it is somehow more patriotic to show you’re an American then to actually exercise the rights that are granted to us by the Constitution?