The Pledge of Allegiance and Foreign Nationals

Without trying to stir up another hornet’s nest, I’d like to paste this posting from a Yahoo! group I’m a member of (Swedish People Living Abroad):

“Our four-year-old’s school insists they have the right to make children recite the pledge of allegiance, regardless of their nationality. We know they’re wrong, but where can we find legal citations or international agreements about this?”

So, lawyer-type Dopers - whatcha got?

Non-american here. I can’t imagine they’re entitled to make any child recite the pledge of allegiance, regardless of nationality. Surely the constitutional guarantee of free speech means that people have the right not to recite the pledge of allegiance?

My brother spent a year in a US high school as an exchange student some time ago. The protocol there was that he was not expected to recite the pledge of allegiance when other students did. Indeed, it would have been regarded as improper for him to do so, since the “pledge” he was reciting would plainly have been false as far as he was concerned.

It has been clearly established that no school can make anyone say the pledge of allegiance, not even US citizens. They can make them sit quietly while everyone else says the pledge, but you don’t have to say the pledge if you don’t want to.

If the school in question is a private school, they can have whatever rules they want, of course. No public school can force someone to say the pledge of allegiance as far as I know.

The Supreme Court decided this issue back in 1943 in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)


It actually reversed a 1940 decision on the same issue

No one can be forced to salute the flag or say the pledge of allegiance if it violates the individual conscience.
(West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943)

Thanks, BobT, that’s just the ticket I was looking for.

Your child could recite the original 1892 version of the pledge of allegiance and not be unfaithful to Sweden. The pledge as originally written by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, was as follows:

In 1923 and 1924 the National Flag Conference (the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution) changed the Pledge’s words, ‘my Flag,’ to ‘the Flag of the United States of America.’ Francis Bellamy disliked this change, but his protest was ignored.

In 1954, Congress after a campaign by the Knights of Columbus, added the words, ‘under God,’ to the Pledge. The Pledge was originally a patriotic oath, but now it contains a public prayer too.

Bellamy’s granddaughter said he also would have resented this second change. He had been pressured into leaving his church in 1891 because of his inclusive-themed sermons. In his retirement in Florida, he stopped attending church entirely because he disliked the racial bigotry he found there.

The earlier posters have already linked the appropriate case. Amazingly, many educators still believe that they can force a kid to take the pledge.