School is back in session, and this year, talk about participating in our national liturgies such as the National Anthem or the Pledge is generating far more attention than in previous years. For whatever one thinks if Colin Kaepernick, he has certainly provoked a national discussion that was long over due.
I have already articulated that I do not participate in these national liturgies because they conflict with my Christian faith. The great thing about America is that you have the right and the freedom to opt-out and not participate in these civil religious ceremonies, a right for which I am grateful (side note: even if the law forced me to do it, I would still refuse). While opting out of participation certainly results in shaming and ridicule (Exhibit A: Kaepernick), one cannot be compelled by force to join in with the crowd.
Sadly, not everyone understands this– mainly, many teachers.
Each year we continue to see cases of teachers forcing children to either stand for, or recite the Pledge. I think this has been ignored by too many in Christianity because there has been a false assumption that it’s the atheist kids or Jehovah Witnesses refusing to participate (and you know, who gives a rip about them). However, perhaps now that there’s a growing awareness that many of us fellow Christians abstain from these activities, there will be appropriate attention to these egregious rights violations.
Case in point: 6th grader Melodie Banks.
The young Banks recently chose to sit quietly in her seat and pray instead of participating in the pledge– and her teacher was not amused. According to KWTX:
“Melodie Banks was praying silently at her desk on Aug. 29 when the teacher interrupted her and voiced his disapproval, telling her she could not pray in his class. Then on Aug. 31 and again on Sept. 1, another teacher refused to allow her to remain in class after she declined to stand to pledge allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags…”
What did the teacher do when she refused to stand for the pledge? Well, what any reasonable person would do: she told her she wasn’t going to heaven and then took away her chair, forcing her to stand for the class period.
And it’s not just Melodie Banks. The same thing happened to Shemar Cooper— his teacher tried to physically remove him from his seat and make him stand.
Why stuff like this is still happening in 2016 is beyond me, so let me help out all the teachers, parents, and kids out there: You cannot force a child to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. You cannot make them stand up. You cannot make them say the words. You cannot do that.
I don’t care what the errant school policy is. I don’t care how misinformed the district superintendent might be. I don’t care how personally offensive one may find it. You cannot force a child to participate in these nationalistic observances.
The US Supreme Court settled this issue in 1943 with West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. It has remained settled law since that case– free speech means you cannot force someone to say something.
Certainly, over the years, states have adopted laws that conflicted with WV v. Barnette– laws that initially forced students to participate– but those laws are consistently struck down as unconstitutional, such as Lane v. Owens. From that ruling:
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher, a student, a citizen, an administrator, or anyone else, it is beyond the power of the authority of government to compel the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.”
The law in the United States is clear: kids cannot be forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
So, if you’re a student, know your rights and don’t be afraid to assert them. If you are a parent, know that your children cannot be compelled– and that any compulsion is a violation of their rights.
If you are a teacher, well– respect yourself, respect your students, and for the love of Lemmy, respect the law: do not try to force, compel, shame, or bully your students into participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.
It’s against the law.
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