The purpose of Our Conscience weblog is to facilitate a greater discussion and understanding of church and state separation in our community and in others. Underlying this is the value that each individual should be allowed to follow the dictates of his or her own conscience without influence, coercion, or direction from the State when it comes to matters of religion.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Student Forced to Stand for the Pledge

Our Conscience

The following was posted on Democratic Underground:

If you have read the thread I posted last night entitled "Why I won't be saying the pledge tommorow", you know that me and a few friends decided to sit out the pledge today.

We went through with our plan. Although four of us did not stand, the only ones to get referrals were myself and one of the kids that did not stand yesterday either.

We were told to sit in the office to wait for the assistant principle. Our referrals were for defiance. The teacher wrote a description something along the lines of "Refused to stand to show respect to the flag after being told to stand." (It should be noted that I was never told directly to stand...the teacher called my friends to her desk yesterday to talk to them but I never received a direct order that I was defying).

I've heard that while we were in the office the teacher gave a spiel to the class about the importance of standing to "support the troops" during the war on terror. (I wonder what she thinks of Cindy Sheehan?)

After about 15 minutes, she came into the office holding a description of the supreme court case West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette provided to her by one of our friends who didn't get a referral.

Although she didn't read it, she dismissed it immediately. (I kid you not, she actually said that because the ruling was from 1943, it doesn't matter. I was thinking of informing her that they don't expire ^_^.)...

See the recommendations of the National School Boards Association:

"Barnette and its progeny make clear that any school district or state adopting a Pledge of Allegiance policy or law should avoid coercing participation and punishing refusal to participate in any aspect of the flag ritual, including, standing, saluting the flag, and reciting the Pledge. Schools should consider using permissive rather than mandatory language to introduce the recitation of the Pledge—“You may now stand to recite the Pledge,” rather than, “Now we will all stand to recite the Pledge.” Schools may require that non-participants maintain order and decorum appropriate to the school environment. Schools may allow students choosing not to participate in the Pledge to leave the classroom, but they should not require them to do so. By making participation voluntary, schools not only will be avoiding First Amendment litigation, but will also be teaching children that tolerance of dissenting views does not threaten American values, but rather strengthens them."

Burns, Thomas. (2002). The Pledge of Allegiance: Teaching Tolerance for Political and Religious Dissent. National School Boards Association's Council of School Attorneys: ISSN: 1069-0190

Why do teachers do this? The first reason is that they are ignorant of the law. The second is that they confuse patriotism with conformity. They make the Pledge a tool of oppression rather than an affirmation of our national values.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Garman: Jefferson’s letter

Our Conscience

A July 17 letter (“Phrase misused”) abused the court opinion in Reynolds v. U.S. That 1879 court unanimously declared that President Thomas Jefferson’s 1801 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut was acceptable as a “declaration of the scope and effect” of the First Amendment, which is why the court chose to use it.

No one who has done their homework says the words “church and state” are in the Constitution. However, it cannot be denied the word “religion” is in the Constitution, and it is a distortion to suggest “religion” does not include church.

Nevertheless, the Founding Father and member of the First Congress who personally helped write the First Amendment did use proper terminology when he wrote: “Strongly guarded ... is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States” (James Madison, “Detached Memoranda,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3:555).

Go to a university library and read it, or search for “Detached Memoranda” on the Internet.

Gene Garman

Pittsburg, Kan.