Freedom of Speech and the Pledge of Allegiance

PredgeOfAllegiance

Um, no.

I’ve no idea to which generation the author of this meme belongs, but the Pledge of Allegiance hasn’t always been recited in this manner. Prior to 1954 the Pledge was two words shorter, but thanks to the efforts of the Knights of Columbus and others who wanted to differentiate America from those dirty atheist commies across the pond, Congress officially amended the Pledge to include the words “under God”. Also, before the hand-over-heart gesture became de rigueur, little students would salute the flag by extending their arms straight out at a slightly raised angle; that was changed in 1942 because it looked a little too much like a salute used by some troublemakers who were trying to take over Europe.

The recitation of the Pledge in public schools has been controversial, especially after the addition of a religious reference, and I’m certain that it offends people even today. But – there’s always a but – that doesn’t mean the PC Police have won. Only five states do not require public schools to set aside time for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Read that again. Of these fifty United States, forty-five have rules on the books stating that public schools can set aside a few seconds of each school day to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, “under God” and all. Even in the states where Pledge time is not mandated, there may still be schools that do it.

Under Federal law (and many state and local laws as well) students cannot be compelled to stand up and recite the Pledge, nor can they be punished or singled out for embarrassment if they do not. I know that rankles many a hide, but a student’s free speech rights include the right not to speak if he so chooses. How does it look if you must force a student to recite the words “with liberty and justice for all” against his will?

Still, many students do stand up and say the words. Whether they understand the words’ meanings and importance or whether they’re just doing what they’ve been socially conditioned to do, I cannot say. But the bottom line is that on any given school day, millions of students will rise and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and nobody – not the ACLU, not the United Nations, not the dark forces of Political Correctness – is breaking down the school doors to demand that they stop. There’s no other way to judge this meme: it’s just wrong.

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2 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech and the Pledge of Allegiance

  1. Do school age kids have constitutional rights like freedom of speech? If so, why can’t they swear. Do they have other rights? Protection from warrantless search and seizure and fair trials would end grounding.

  2. That…is an interesting problem. Theoretically, school-age kids should have the right to say whatever Constitutionally-protected thing they want to say, including swearing. However, I think MOST people would agree that allowing kids to swear prodigiously in class would have a negative impact on education; to wit, the teacher might be unable to maintain discipline in a classroom full of students who are completely verbally free. I’ll have to think about that a bit more and get back to you.

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