Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pledge of Allegiance vs. Freedom of Speech?

I was just reading a story my wife forwarded to me regarding a teacher at the Explorer School in Spring Hill, Florida, that 'laid hands' on a student for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in her class. According to the report that was published in Hernando Today by Matt Reinig, "Teacher Anne Daigle-McDonald grabbed the student's wrist and directed him to do the pledge on Sept. 11, according to the investigation.". The student, who is Jehovah's Witness and prohibited by the religion from worshiping objects, refused on religious grounds, the investigation found.

Other children in the class corroborated the students allegations regarding the incident as it happened. Ms. Daigle-McDonald stated, in her defense of the allegations when questioned about them, "she thought the religion applied only to holidays, but said she did not attempt to contact the student's parents for clarification" and "she did not think it was good practice to regularly place hands on students, and that she feels strongly as a citizen of the United States that one should show respect to the flag."

The teacher was removed from student contact, and placed on alternative assignment on Sept. 12, according to the article.

I believe the Constitution has a very profound reason for being relevant in this country but many seem to think in simple minded terms about the document and what meaning it really has for Americans. It's not a piece of paper that we either salute, or hold our hand over our heart for, it's a life lesson in progress that we have turned backwards in out haste to prove what good citizens we can be by lashing out at anyone who "breaks a rule"! The Constitution is a guide book, and a rule book. It was written as a guide to building a fair and impartial government where all people has a say and are free to express themselves without fear of retribution from their government. The rule book aspect is in place to make sure people don't get 'run over' by zealous pundits or power grabbers that want to control people. Some people haven't read and understood the document, they've just looked at the Cliff Notes for it!

The Constitution of the United States of America allows, and protects, anyone who wants to call the President an asshole, who wants to wear the flag on their pants or even make a pair of pants out of the flag, who wants to burn our flag, and even anyone who does not want to be involved in the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance! The founding fathers knew that this was going to be a great nation one day and didn't want the harsh nature of an oppressive government to keep it's citizens crushed by it, so they stated their freedoms that they knew they needed to clarify and specify, as best they could for the ages. Some have outgrown their need and original purpose and others are just as relevant today as they were then. The Freedom of Speech also means the freedom NOT to speak as well. All good citizens of this nation need to make sure that if a child chooses not to recite the pledge, that most schools no longer do anymore, it's their protected right and we need to make sure they can exercise that right so that these rights are never removed from us! After 911, we lost too many Rights and we gave them away with a cheer! What a mistake that was!

Un-American? No, I don't think it is. The un-American thing to do would be to suppress his right to decline a pledge that is against her beliefs. Isn't that what America was all about from the beginning? Freedom from an oppressive, single-minded, system? Some of the comments people put make me wince at what some believe a real American should do. I understand that military people would be quite put out by this 'disrespect' of the flag because they were, and are, expected to lay down their lives for this country which is represented by our flag. In the same token, what they're laying down their lives really for is to protect the rights of people who also wish to decline tradition, also known as the American way of life!

What is the Pledge of Allegiance and who started it? That's easy. It was written by a Socialist, that's right a SOCIALIST, in August 1892, who also happened to be a Baptist minister(see here). The Pledge was also part of a promotion from a magazine company to "sell flags to schools and magazines to students". Doesn't sound too Patriotic so far, more Capitalistic if anything! "The Pledge was supposed to be quick and to the point. Bellamy designed it to be recited in 15 seconds. As a Socialist, he had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans. Liberty and justice for all? Not hardly from these people, unless you were White and male! "The United States Congress officially recognized the Pledge for the first time, in the following form, on June 22, 1942". Looks like the war made people think about who their neighbors may be and needed a way to weed them out. Guess what? A real traitor or spy would be happy to recite the pledge just to blend in. This was strictly for the masses to police themselves for 'suspects that may be un-American in nature'!

Who is right and who is wrong, under the laws of our great nation? "In 1940 the Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools, including the respondents in that case, Jehovah's Witnesses who considered the flag salute to be idolatry, could be compelled to swear the Pledge. A rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah's Witnesses followed the ruling. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that public school students are not required to say the Pledge, concluding that "compulsory unification of opinion" violates the First Amendment. In a later case, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that students are also not required to stand for the Pledge.

Did this teacher act as a law abiding American citizen by trying to force a small child into doing something against his religion to show respect for the American flag? No, not at all. In fact she violated laws that were set in place to protect Americans that have restrictions put upon them for various reasons. Were her intentions good? No, again, it was not her place to make such an 'on the spot' ruling without knowing the rules regarding the act in progress.

In conclusion, it's not how you talk to a piece of cloth that makes you a good and patriotic citizen of this great land but rather how you behave as one of it's citizens and how you respect and uphold the laws of the land that determine you're status as a 'good' American! Condemnation by opinion is not how this nation should be run and that's why we have our freedoms on paper and justices to enforce their meanings!

Article sources: Hernando Today reported by Matt Reinig and Wikipedia for Pledge of Allegiance history data. Thank you both!

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