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Friday, September 16, 2005
Yes. We're a republic, not a democracy. You can't force the teacher (an adult who has been left out of your discussion) to recite a religious pledge.

/End Argument


  1. Scott Z said...

    Not really the point. No one's forcing anybody to say anything -- the decision said that you're forbidden from reciting the pledge on school grounds, no matter who you are. I find that more restrictive than allowing people to decide what they will and won't say by themselves, don't you?

    3:45 PM  

  2. Mrs. B said...

    Well, they are being forced, actually - the CA law says that the school day must start with the proper patriotic activities (the pledge). That forces both the teacher and the students.

    And are you sure that the decision prohibits the pledge from being said on school grounds? I thought the decision just said that (a) the pledge as it is in its current form violates the establishment clause, and (b) thus the California law that mandates the recitation of the pledge at the start of the school day is Unconstitutional. That wouldn't prohibit the recitation at all, but would strike down the law that says you have to recite it at the start of the school day. But maybe that was the 2002 decision, and I'm confused. Do you have a link to the decision? I've been trying to find one.

    8:58 AM  

  3. Scott Z said...

    Click here for the opinion on FindLaw. Note that the California statute referenced requires a "patriotic demonstration" in public elementary schools, and it says the pledge will satisfy the requirement. It does not require that the pledge be recited. Also note that the order holds that the teacher-led recitation of the pledge is at issue and is unconstitutional.
    It's my opinion that both the California statute (which establishes a certain kind of speech, that of a pro-American sentiment, as paramount) and the recent court decision (which prevents adults from carrying out their own speech) are dead wrong. The point of the First Amendment is that Congress can't restrict the freedom of speech. That implies that you can't force people to say something they don't want to, and you can't prevent people from saying something they want to say.
    That's subject to restriction, of course -- yelling "fire" in a crowded theater is still not protected by the First Amendment.

    3:32 PM  

  4. Mrs. B said...

    I still don't see where the decision forbids adults from reciting the pledge - but then, I'm a bit out of it today and may just be missing it. Can you tell me what page it's on, or something? It actually seems to say that adults CAN be led in the pledge, because of the bit about the school board meetings.

    I entirely agree that the California statute is dead wrong, and I agree that any decision "which prevents adults from carrying out their own speech" would be wrong, but I just don't see where this decision prevents adults from carrying out their own speech/saying the pledge if they feel like it.

    8:09 AM  

  5. Scott Z said...

    The order that the plaintiffs were seeking was an injunction against teacher-led recitation of the pledge. That means that if a teacher voluntarily recited the pledge, and students voluntarily recited it, and those who did not wish to recite the pledge did not, the teacher would be in violation of the order.

    12:46 PM  

  6. Mrs. B said...

    Ah, I see. Well...really, I don't think that a teacher voluntarily leading the class in the pledge means that the students are "voluntarily" reciting it. Especially with younger students, or good students, they think that what the teacher says is mandatory. I did. And part of the problem is that students don't necessarily know - or feel - that they can opt out and not recite it if they don't want to.

    Would you be ok with it if a teacher voluntarily led the class in a prayer at the start of every school day?

    12:53 PM  

  7. Scott Z said...

    The issue I have with the order is that it prevents the teacher from reciting the pledge, which is primarily an act of patriotism. I'm not okay with the hypothetical teacher leading the class in prayer. I *am* okay with the teacher reciting one on school grounds during the school day. I don't think you can reasonably argue that just hearing someone else say something abridges one's own rights.

    The pledge isn't a prayer, despite the phrase "under God." The courts recognize -- indeed, institutionalize -- the difference between patriotic acts referencing God and legislative acts establishing God. Federal inaugurations all make use of the bible and the phrase, "so help me God." The meaning of the phrase doesn't change based on the location in which it is uttered; instead, it is the context in which the words are used (which in the case of the Pledge is in the middle of a patriotic statement) that makes the difference. Otherwise, you could argue that any words uttered in a church must be a prayer -- and I've personally said quite a few words that no one could rightly describe as prayer, despite the fact that they were in a church.

    12:39 PM  

  8. Mrs. B said...

    Ha ha.

    See, I think the problem here is the difference between the teacher saying the pledge, and the teacher "leading the class" in the pledge. Students don't know they have a choice, and don't feel they can opt out, so it's coercive. I don't think that the order prevents the teacher from saying it on her own, sans students.

    And I STILL don't see why it's so hard to remove the phrase "under God" from the pledge. It was easy enough to stick the phrase IN. It would be difficult to, say, remove the phrase "In God we trust" from all of our money, but I agree that we don't need to do that. The phrase on our money (along with "so help me God," etc) is not a subtle and coercive endorsement of religion impressed upon our children. I think the pledge is. When I was a child reciting it in school, that's pretty much how I felt. I think when they added "under God," they clearly meant to impress upon the children who recite the pledge that we are a moral Christian nation, unlike those godless commies.

    2:21 PM  

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