Monday, October 5, 2009

"I pledge allegiance to the flag..."

Thus starts the first sentence of the Pledge of Allegiance, the subject of one of the most controversial, on-going, first amendment cases in U.S. history. Today, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a case from Florida. The full story in the Christian Science Monitor is here. A Florida high-schooler refused to stand and repeat the Pledge of Allegiance. He sued the state on the grounds that students have a constitutional right "to refuse to be compelled by the government to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance."

FYI - Hawaii is one of seven states which have NO LAW on this subject. The other states are Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Vermont and Maine. For a great source on state requirements on the Pledge of Allegiance, visit this site. It appears that the majority of U.S. states have laws requiring schools to have students repeat the pledge, but most states also have laws that provide options for students. Only seven states require both schools and students to repeat the pledge with no options, and those states are Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas.

Back to the Florida case. The underlying Florida law, adopted in 1942, requires all K-12 students to stand and repeat the pledge, unless excused by the parent. The federal judge ruled with the student in 2005, but a Florida appeals court upheld the law stating that the constitutional right belongs not just to the student, but to the parents of school-aged children. The US Supreme Court did not give a reason for its decline.

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