Group’s effort to ban Pledge is latest twist

Friday, September 9, 2011

Now here’s a twist: After years of court battles over whether students in public schools can be compelled to say the Pledge of Allegiance, a group in Brookline, Mass., is trying to ban the pledge entirely in public classrooms.

Marty Rosenthal, co-chairman of Brookline Political Action for Peace, says the organization will urge a non-binding resolution to ban the pledge because it is “at odds with America’s most important traditions,” according to the Boston Herald. The group contends that a ban on the pledge would protect students who choose not to participate from being bullied, according to the Associated Press.

It’s an interesting tactic, although it would take a lot of legislation to address the many ways kids can be bullied in America’s schools.

The Pledge of Allegiance is the subject of controversy surprisingly often, particularly because its use in public schools was resolved more than half a century ago. In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that students could not be required to recite the pledge.

And yet in the last year alone, the pledge drove many headlines:

  • In November, a three-judge panel of the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston unanimously affirmed a federal decision that the phrase “one nation under God” could be included in the voluntary recitation of the pledge in public school and did not violate the principle of separation of church and state.

Under current law, students continue to have the right not to say the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, although they may be asked to stand while others do. It’s a solution that has worked reasonably well and allows students to make a choice.

It’s possible to craft legislation that would limit the use of the pledge by public schools, but no law could ever limit the right of individual students to say the pledge on their own, possibly around a flagpole before school starts or in their free time during the day. Government can limit its own policies and procedures, but not our personal patriotism.

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