Can a schoolteacher be fired for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance?

I *students *have a legal to refuse to say the Pledge and sit quietly at their desks (West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette) as much as many of my teachers (particulary substitutes) refused to believe, but what about teachers? Can a school district require teachers to lead their students (or even stand) in reciting the Pledge?

Considering that the students cannot legally be required to be led in the Pledge, I’d say it’s a moot question. In fact, if interviewing for a social studies teaching job, I’d answer, “I’ll gladly recite the Pledge for or with you, because I as a citizen agree with it, but I won’t violate my students’ constitutional rights by attempting to lead them in it contrary to Federal case law.”

It’s not a moot question. Teachers can be fired for not leading the pledge of allegiance, because the teacher, unlike the students, is an employee of the state. It’s a valid goal for the school to have a policy of promoting the pledge of allegiance, and while the teacher is speaking as an agent of the government, he can be required to make certain acts of speech.

See Garcetti v Ceballos.

Can he be required to violate the constitutional rights of others, as a condition of employment? Although the thread title says “…say the Pledge…” I was answering the OP, which asks, “Can a school district require teachers to lead their students (or even stand) in reciting the Pledge?”, with a nod to the question in the thread title in how I phrased my answer.

Students cannot be required to recite the Pledge. A fortiori, a teacher cannot be dismissed for refuisng to lead them in it.

If we were addressing the thread title question, it reduces to an “at will” employment issue: You can dismiss a schoolteacher for refusing to recite the Pledge under almost exactly the same circumstances as you can dismiss a store clerk or snowplow operator for refusing to recite the Pledge. In each case, it’s not a municiaplity acting magisterially to lay down rules which a category of citizens are obliged to follow, but a business or a municipality functioning as employer in an employer/employee situation, a quite different circumstance.

If you want to read the OP as a teacher being forced to force her students to recite the pledge, fine. But a reasonable reading of the question would be that the teacher has to stand up and recite the pledge, and being fired for refusing to do so.

One of the reasons some permanent residents of the US have for not wanting to become citizens is that they can’t, in conscience, recite the Pledge. So those people wouldn’t be able to be teachers? I have had foreign teachers and didn’t expect them to be loyal to my country.

I don’t really feel like doing the research, and this isn’t really my area of law, but I thought that the proper analysis would be as a free-exercise issue or an employment law/religious discrimination issue. Is that incorrect?

To become a citizen you have to swear the Oath of Allegiance, which (IMO) is a bigger deal and one of the reasons I am not a citizen:

I know people who’d have a problem with both. Allegiance to the flag and to the country, at least for us, involves being willing to do things that one should only be willing to do for his own country (like kill and die for them, for example, and yes, I do realize the Spanish army accepts foreigners).

Then I guess it’s a good thing they don’t become citizens of the United States. If they would do it for their country of birth but not a country they want to move to - making the United States their own country - then they should remain citizens of their birth country. I fail to see the problem.

You are right that students cannot be compelled to recite the pledge (Barnette, as you note). However, this does not moot the question; a schoolteacher might be ordered to lead a recitation of the Pledge notwithstanding the level of compliance he or she gets from her students. Does such an order violate the teacher’s First Amendment rights?

Barnette is not decisive because it deals with students whose attendance at school is compulsory and a law that imposes criminal sanction on the non-conforming student and his parents. Government employment, on the other hand, is not such a right.

Garcetti v. Cabellos isn’t precisely apposite insofar as it concerns reprisal for disfavored speech by a government employee related to his public vocation. But it does show that government speakers have lessened protections under the First Amendment.

The cases that perhaps come closest to answering this question are the loyalty oath cases. Baggett v. Bullitt struck down a Washington state law that required teachers to foster respect for the flags and institutions of the federal and state government for vagueness. That seems to settle the matter, but this statute isn’t actually vague: a teacher is required to lead a recitation of a fixed text.

Cole v. Richardson in 1972 upheld the termination of a Massachusetts employee who refused to sign an oath promising to “support and defend” the U.S. and Massachusetts constitutions and to “oppose the overthrow of the government.” I took a similar oath when being sworn in to the bar of Illinois well after that time. A recent case in California involving a Quaker lecturer at a state university was settled with the lecturer signing a slightly modified loyalty oath.

Thus, it seems that even a principled objection of the teacher to pledging allegiance would be unavailing. The further fact that one can (perhaps) distinguish between leading a recitation and promising one’s allegiance would only attenuate that rationale even more.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden to swear an oath to anything of this world. The Supreme Court ruled that students can’t be forced to say the Pledge on behalf of little Jehovah’s Witnesses who were trying to mind their parents, pointing out that being a good American does not imply the religious persecution of six-year olds. Shouldn’t a teacher with religious objections to the Pledge, or for that matter religious objections to the Oath of Citizenship, be likewise protected from discrimination?

Couldn’t an argument be made that it is a bona-fide occupational requirement?

I mean, agree or disagree, many school districts have the pledge as part of their day’s activities and it is the responsibility of a teacher to lead the class in that activity.

Would a biology teacher have a religious protection if he/she refused to teach evolution?

Being a teacher doesn’t require being a citizen, though. I imagine that if university teachers were required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, prospective foreign students would be informed beforehand; I don’t know whether foreign-language teachers who are in the US on one-or-two-year stays are informed of such a requirement beforehand. I know someone who knows someone who was in one of those programs, but it’s going to take me a while to track the info.

If I may ask, what part of the Oath of Allegiance is it that bothers you?

I don’t mean to criticize; I am simply curious.

This should possibly be a different thread (“US residents - why are you not a citizen?”, but this is the part that bothers me:

I would be happy to be a dual US/UK citizen, and despite the “renounce etc.” wording, I am legally allowed to be dual, but I would still be lying when taking the US oath, and that bothers me.

I, personally, had no problem with the pledge until they inserted “under god” some time in the 50s. I never said the pledge thereafter and a school would be on very shaky grounds if they fired me for it.

In light of my survey of the relevant case law above, I would sure be grateful if you could point me to this contrary authority you seem to know about. Maybe you have a case citation you could share? Thanks!

I don’t want to subscribe to your newsletter.

What a weird thing for any state to try to subject its citizens to, wether children or adults.

Seems pretty backward, and very 19thCentury to me.

I can understand someone whose role it is to serve in the armed forces or some state protection agency.