Virginia Schoolchildren to be Force to Recite Pledge?

(Notes: Unc, Coldy, this really isn’t Pit-worthy, but if you think it belongs there, by all means move it. The article that prompted it can be viewed online here.)

Senator Warren E. Barry
General Assembly Building
910 Capitol Street, Room 301
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Del. Robert F. McDonell
General Assembly Building
P.O. Box 406
Richmond, Virginia 23218
Dear Sen. Barry and Del. McDonnell:

I read this morning in the Washington Post that the two of you support an initiative, and in fact Sen. Barry is sponsoring a Senate bill, which will require Virginia schoolchildren to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, with an exemption to be granted to objectors only upon receipt of a note from clergy. I must say that, as a citizen of Virginia and the United States, I am appalled by your support and some of the statements attributed to you in the Post.

I will ignore the First Amendment implications of allowing religious children an exemption from a school activity which nonreligious children are not able to use; and of requiring nonreligious students to pledge allegiance to a nation “under God.” The problems with this initiative go much deeper than that.

Del. McDonnell is quoted as saying, “Anything we can do to have a resurgence of patriotism and fidelity to values is a good thing.” I would question whether he really means “anything,” of course; even politicians have their limits. But more importantly, he misses an important facet of his own argument. It is remarkably easy to create patriots under threat of penalty and force of law; indeed, the Spanish Inquisition found it a facile way to gain converts. Such patriotism is, of course, without meaning. It is induced, not given freely, and as such is disposable and equally likely to cause resentment as it is fidelity.

What is not so easy – what is, in fact, a masterstroke of political ingenuity – is to on the one hand force children at metaphorical gunpoint to recite political oaths which they may not even understand, let alone agree with; while on the other hand to educate them as to the great freedoms in the United States. Even more ironic is to bully children into reciting an oath which extols “liberty . . . for all.”

Of course, as expected, the two of you fall back on the timeworn and sickening “love it or leave it” argument, telling the schoolchildren of this state that if they do not want to recite the Pledge, that they “belong elsewhere” (Sen. Barry) or “probably ought to move” (Del. McDonnell). Keep in mind, we’re talking about children here.
I would hope that, rather than attempt to force children to be patriots, we would want our children to be good citizens. Rather than require them to take political oaths, we should guide them towards being good neighbors, teaching that they have a moral responsibility to all others regardless of nationality or origin.

It is commonplace these days that politicians prefer style over substance, empty promises over accomplishment, and appearance over integrity. That makes it no less disappointing that, rather than make sure we educate our children to be the best and the brightest, the two of you would rather ensure that they receive the proper political guidance, forcing them to take loyalty oaths before they are legally permitted to vote or sign contracts.

I find it hard to believe that the two of you served in our nation’s armed forces, only to gain political office and use it to engage in exactly the kind of forced political indoctrination we fought against all over the world. I find it ven more amazing that two members of the Republican Party, which stands for less government control over the lives of individuals, would support a measure to force citizens to engage in political speech under threat of punishment. Sen. Barry especially should be ashamed; he has already succeeded in his attempt to slide mandatory school prayer through the back door with a state-mandated moment of silence each morning, and I have no doubt he will support the recent House measure requiring schools to display the motto “In God We Trust,” should it reach the Senate. Perhaps, Sen. Barry, you can eventually eliminate math, science, history and English from the curriculum in favor of a full day of political indoctrination.

I intend to write my representatives in the Virginia statehouse, Del. David Albo and Sen. Patricia Ticer, and urge them to vote against any initiative to require children to recite the Pledge, and I intend to urge all my fellow Virginia citizens to do the same.

Philip Dennison
Alexandria, Va.

Well done, Phil.

It’s not a pit-worthy thread, perhaps, but it sure is a well-thought one.

If I had children in Virginia, I would not hasten to pull them out of public schools if this initiative were passed. When I was in high school, the issue of standing for the pledge came up. For much of the early school months, I merely mouthed the words, because I didn’t like the religious implications of the pledge. Then my teacher caught on and had a little ‘chat’ with me in the hall. He said that by refusing to recite the pledge, I was offending him (he was a devout Christian). But I would not budge - my own little bit of civil disobediance.

Politicians can get mighty sanctimonious sometimes, can’t they? They mount that high horse and extol the virtures of family values and often include as many references to religion as they can muster. They’re not always representing their constituents’ wishes, of course, but in their eyes whoever opposes their agenda is therefore against family values. It’s bully politics.

I live in Maryland, and you can bet that the politicans of your neighboring state are watching this event closely. If it can happen in Virginia, surely there’s a chance for it to happen anywhere. I applaud your letter.

Spot on, brother. (Though I might have taken out the tongue-in-cheek sentence about eliminating science, math, etc.)

This came up (to a lesser extent) when there was the proposed amendment to outlaw flag burning. One of the things that makes this country so great is that we have the freedom to disagree with the government which gives us those freedoms! The wonder of USA is that we have the right to protest (for the purposes of awareness and change) the government which provides the right to protest.

A former girlfriend took a course from Coleman McCarthy, wherein he was extolling the virtues of other government forms and lambasting our system. She stood up and announced that while his opinions were valid and honest, he ought to be a bit mindful that he is able to make those opinions known because of our government and the freedoms provided. The rest of the class applauded.

I don’t think pride is disappearing.

What we need is a good conventional war to put this nation back on it’s feet and instill a sense of patrionism. :smiley:

disclaimer: the above sentence was SO tongue in cheek I could be “frenching” myself.

Oh, yeah…

About the bill, what about Special Education children? Some children in public school are autistic, retarded (non-perjorative) to a “basic functioning” level, or have other situations causing thier learning programs to include basic functions. Some of these are on the level of brushing teeth or even potty training. Are these students going to be required to learn and recite the pledge?

What about deaf students? Would they be required to sign the pledge? In ASL or signed English? Wouldn’t that be fun to see. I bet some of those kids could come up with some very interesting signs!

All in all, the bill sponsors want more patriotism (a “good ole days” solution) and think that it can be legislated easily. Obviously, this was not thought out. I’m sure :rolleyes: that the VA legislature is smart enough to let this one die quietly.

Good letter Phil. Either they think this will succeed or they think it won’t. I don’t know which motivation is more distressing.

Has the ACLU responded yet?

Excellent letter, Phil. I about choked on my coffee this morning when I read the article over breakfast. What kind of idjits think that patriotism can be mandated? We live in a state that thinks emulating the school regimentation of 1930s Japan is a good thing. I’ll be sending a similar letter myself.

Mind you, I’m all for patriotism and the Pledge of Allegiance, but it has to come from the heart voluntarily or it’s worthless. Compelling children to recite words they don’t mean or understand is an act of tyranny, not freedom.

I stopped saying the Pledge somewhere in grade school. I just thought that pledging loyalty blindly was wrong, and that I’d make up my own mind based on the issues if there was ever a need to be loyal to “us or them”… the “God thing” didn’t bother me until years later (I was a good little Xtian in a good little Xtian school) at which point the Pledge bothered me even more.

I find it a little distressing that my son, age 5 and in Kindergarten (in a Virginia public school) can recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance flawlessly (well ok he says “invisible” but so what) yet can’t say his A B C’s all the way through yet without missing letters or going in loops.

spritle, the news station here in DC said that the ACLU had ‘criticized’ the legislation, but did not elaborate. I’d have to think they will issue more than a stern protest…

Letter from the clergy, eh. I assume that includes the Universal Life Church.

Good job, Phil. You tell 'em!

How long have children been reciting the pledge?
I did all the time, and never even paid any attention to what I was saying.
I doubt it did or will harm any child.

I don’t know if harm is necessarily the right word… but blind obedience in something you don’t understand (and how many elementary kids REALLY understand what it is they’re told to recite every day in school?) doesn’t benefit the child or anyone, for that matter. And punishing a child for standing up for what they believe (or don’t believe) in is stifling their individuality, their ability to think for themselves. When you learn something young, you’re less likely to question it as you get older than if you learn it older.

I’d rather have people around me who think for themselves, but whose opinion differs from my own than those who only think and say what they’ve been told to say.

(Sorry I’m not more elegant in my post today… Brain’s not on as straight as I’d like :slight_smile: )

I’m glad I live in Maryland.

As well as being anti-Christian in general.

‘Allegiance’ is defined by Webster’s as “the obligation of a feudal vassal to his liege lord.” Webster’s implicitly notes that this definition is a bit old-fashioned nowadays, by giving as an alternative its modern equivalent, “the fidelity owed by a subject or citizen to his sovereign or government.”

The problem for those of us who claim Jesus as our Lord is that, when it comes to liege lords, we’ve already got one. So confessing to that same obligation to another one is clearly out of bounds for us. I can’t see why replacing a feudal lord with a government - even one of the people, by the people, etc. - should change that principle.

For this reason, my conclusion has long been that the Pledge of Allegiance is right out for us Christians. The Bible affirms this in many ways: Hebrews 11:13-16, for instance, reminds us that we are only visiting this planet, and that our true citizenship is in a heavenly country. If we are not to regard ourselves as citizens of this world, then how on earth can we pledge fidelity to one of its countries? That makes no sense whatsoever.

That’s why I find a mandatory Pledge of Allegiance to be anti-Christian. And it’s pretty obvious, given the above, how it violates the free exercise of Christianity. (I would expect that adherents of other faiths, such as Islam, would have similar problems with the Pledge.) Since it’s already clear how the ‘under God’ phrase violates atheists’ free exercise of their beliefs, that just about covers the waterfront.

The Supreme Court decided this already in 58 years ago in
Board of Education vs. Barnette,. The case was brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses who said that a West Viginia law madating compulsory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violated their First Amendment rights. The Court found, in part:

Damn straight. BTW, I thought the goal of the GOP was to get government off our backs, not to strap on totalitarian mind control over school children.

In addition to the consideration of legislature to require students to recite the pledge, Robert Marshall (Rep. delegate from Prince William) proposed that all VA public schools prominently display the words “In God We Trust” on all campuses. A legislative committee approved the bill and it will be sent to the VA House floor.

Marshall said he didn’t know how much it would cost to do this, but said, “They’ve got wood shops around…there are ways of doing this.”

I remember saying it as a kid, because it was expected of me. As I grew older, I started wondering certain things about the pledge, like why is it that allegiance to the flag is listed before allegience to the Republic (Hell, why is it mentioned at all?).

I think of myself as patriot, but requiring children to take an oath of feality is wrong. They have no idea what they’re promising! I find it especially disturbing, since most adult workplaces (Or colleges) have a pledge recitation. Requiring children to say it therefore seems to be the work of bullies (‘Bulliesm?’).

OpalCat: I used to think the word was “invisible” too.

Goboy: It seems like certain Republicans see Small Government as only applying to social programs and “Immoral” interests. Surely government has the right to legeslate morality, right? Right?

yawn I got tired of reciting the pledge years ago. I don’t feel like I should ally myself to a piece of cloth, and certainly laying down my life for it is absurd.
I like the USA, I don’t think I’d feel comfortable anyplace else. But I’ll be durned if I’ll pledge allegiance to a piece of cloth everyone agrees represents our country.


I’m certain that Democrats have been guilty of trying to legislate morality as quick as some Republicans. At least on the State level, and here in Mississippi I can say that for certain. It’s a political thing.