MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Texas Attorney General Ignores 75 Years of Supreme Court Rulings Trying to Force a Student to Stand for the Pledge

The irony is that she's protesting authoritarian police behavior.

A.G. Ken PaxtonJoshua Roberts/REUTERS/NewscomTexas Attorney General Ken Paxton's website says "Liberty and Justice for Texas" in big letters at the top. He seems to have a funny idea of what "liberty" means, though. He thinks the State of Texas can force students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

India Landry, 18, was expelled from a high school in Katy, Texas, because she has repeatedly refused to stand for the Pledge. Landry is suing the school district in federal court, arguing violations of her civil rights. Now Paxton, as the state's top prosecutor, is asking to intervene in the federal case.

To say that court precedent is on Landry's side may understate things. A Supreme Court decision from all the way back in 1943 makes it very clear that public schools cannot force students to salute the flag or recite the pledge.

You might expect that as the state's attorney general, Paxton would be defending Landry's free speech rights here. Nope: He wants to argue that Landry cannot refuse to stand for the flag without her parent's permission. It seems that Texas schools have opt-out forms that parents are expected to sign to give children "permission" to not stand. In a press release, he claims, quite incorrectly, "School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge."

Landry's mother is supporting her lawsuit, which makes Paxton's approach more than a little strange. Even stranger is the Supreme Court precedents he's attempting to use in his motion to justify his position. He quotes Texas v. Johnson and Spence v. Washington, in which the Court said, "there is a special place reserved for the flag in this Nation, and thus we do not doubt that the government has a legitimate interest in making efforts to 'preserv[e] the national flag as an unalloyed symbol of our country.'" But this quote comes from a Supreme Court case affirming the right to desecrate the flag as a form of protected speech! The decision specifically forbids the government from punishing citizens for disrespecting the flag.

This unconstitutional wankery can be explained by election-year politics and by the fact that Landry is reportedly refusing to stand for the pledge to show her support for kneeling NFL players. In other words, Paxton is supporting the school district punishing a black student for participating in a protest that is fundamentally about how people in authority abuse their power to punish black people.

Photo Credit: Joshua Roberts/REUTERS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I won't vote for a man for attorney general or anything else unless he stands up for the rights of all those who fought for our flag and for our guaranteed freedom to force students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

  • juris imprudent||

    You're thinking of Texas' previous AG and current governor who will not stand for the pledge.

  • Dillinger||

    cold, dude. stand up, Chuck!

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    GREAT SATIRE!

  • Anomalous||

    From my cold, dead flagpole.

  • Dillinger||

    how in 2018 are we still on who stands and who does not for what? just stop.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Respect mah authoritah?

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Hell no!

  • Dillinger||

    Paxton = Officer Cartman was instructional video

  • Paloma||

    How in 2018 we still have some progressive written by a socialist nonsense like a "Pledge of Allegiance"?

  • Dillinger||

    word.

  • Drake||

    LOL, no shit. It was created by Francis Bellamy specifically to promote socialism, "national unity", and obedience to government indoctrination in government schools. Not only that, but Bellamy even had a particular salute in mind to address the flag: the Roman salute.

    This changed in 1942 with the advent of the U.S. Flag Code. Needless to say the Nazi/Fascist resurrection of said salute put a bit of a damper on that. Can't imagine why...

  • Wise Old Fool||

    Ken Paxton is a retard. That's the only excuse he needs

  • Uncle Jay||

    Next up in Texas schools: Loyalty oaths.

  • Agammamon||

    What do you think the Pledge of Allegiance is?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well, would you have it any other way?

    If flag-worship rituals are not properly performed in all pubic venues, then the next thing you know, people will feel free to disrespect motherhood and apple pie, and then next, they will be loading up their apple pies with strontium 90, finely ground plutonium dust, and explosives, to create "dirty bombs", as a form of "free speech", and they will commit mass murder!

    So let's nip this thing in the bud RIGHT NOW!!!! Before it goes ANY further!!!!

  • jcw||

    Only true patriots would perform a pattern of kneeling and standing during the anthem.

  • Wise Old Fool||

    True patriots believe in MAGA, everyone else, get on the trains to the gulags. Snap to it!

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    MAGA = Morons Are Governing America

  • Rev. Arthur L. Kirkland||

    MAGA: My Associates Getting Arrested

    MAGA: My Attorneys Giving Allocutions

    MAGA: My Aides Going Away

    MAGA: My Appendages Greatly Abbreviated

  • SQRLSY One||

    MAGA, Make America Grate (its teeth) Again!

  • ||

    The Rev responding to a Hihn-bot? Such a feedback loop could have unforseen consequences.

    "Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously, and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light.

    Total prontonic reversal.

    That's bad."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Make America Great Again!

  • crufus||

    Paxton is just protecting her right to be forced to respect the Pledge of Allegiance and to be free of the right to free speech.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I really don't get the boner certain people have about empty performative flag fetishism.

  • Cathy L||

    You'll fuck the flag and you'll like it, Hugh.

  • Anomalous||

    In Soviet Russia, flag fucks you.

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    This is the same moronic thinking that think if you make a kid recite a prayer enough days in a row they will become Christian.

    Make the flag worthy of respect and people will honor it. Continue to insist it stands for outdated mythology that we never did live up to and people will continue to not bother caring.

  • Last of the Shitlords||

    You clearly don't get it.

  • Calidissident||

    Are you defending the Texas AG here? Do you think people should be compelled to stand for the pledge?

  • Paloma||

    I think it's stupid to even have a Pledge. What other country has one? Most countries seem to respect their flag without one.

  • Agammamon||

    Ha!

  • Arn0||

    "This is the same moronic thinking that think if you make a kid recite a prayer enough days in a row they will become Christian."

    Sadly, it is not that moronic, it is pretty effective.

  • OEPYZ||

    She is questioning and disobeying authority. That can not be tolerated in US public schools. Squash the peasants!

  • Ellis Wyatt||

    It has long been frightening, how Trump has enabled the very worst of the Authoritarian Right, from the Christian Taliban to the Fascist Police State.

  • DesigNate||

    Hahahahahahahaha

  • ||

    Clap, clap! Ooh, ooh, now call him a racist!

  • Edwin||

    Libertarians like to claim the state is coercive

    But its not, you can leave the vast majority of countries whenever you want. Your taxes are fees for the services government provides. Last I checked libertarians dont complain about implied contracts anywhere else like restaurants etc.

    I dint think anyone should be punished for burning a flag or not standing the anthem. But I think it would be pretty God damned fair for us to kick you out. You get a month's notice to leave, and if you dont you're deported, and your stuff is sold and the cost of transit is deducted from the proceeds and we send you the rest of the money by wire or something if theres any left over.

    It's perfectly reasonable to expect people to respect the institutions of the place they're in. I wouldn't dream of such behaviors even in countries I DONT LIKE. You're there, have the decency not to shit all over their carpet.

  • christwasnotarepublican2||

    If you decided to renounce your US citizenship, I'd love to know what country you think you would be able to automatically be able to become a citizen of. My guess, there is none. And how in the hell does not standing for the pledge get around d the first amendment I your mind? Just because you might not like it, I could tea-bag the flag and it would be free expression. And excercising one's rights is no reason to leave the country they are a citizen of, it's more reason to enjoy it's liberties. Now as to your tax payer argument, do you own a home? If you take the mortgage interest deduction, under your argument, it would also be reason enough to suborne your rights to those who pay more in taxes, like say a renter with the same income and no deductions. Your idea of liberty is pretty perverse.

  • JeffreyL||

    There are many countries in which you can "pay" to become a citizen through how much you deposit into a local bank.

  • Ghatanathoah||

    You're presuming that everyone else has an unconditional right to kick people already in legal residence out and keep them out. I don't see any such right in the Constitution and also don't see any natural rights or utilitarian basis for one. On the contrary it seems much more reasonable to argue that people have the right to stay and you have no right to stop them. And the idea that separating a person from their family, friends, home, and job somehow isn't the same as "punishing" them is laughable.

    The problem with the "taxes are fees for services" argument is that you can't refuse to pay for services you don't use. If I order a burger at a restaurant I expect to pay for a burger. If they also want me to pay for a turkey, even though I didn't order a turkey and don't like turkey, I'm crying foul.

    I also don't think arguments in the style of "Every time you fart you agree to an implicit social contract to give the government all your money and do whatever it wants" hold up. For one thing, you still have to obey laws and pay taxes even if the government doesn't hold up its end. For another, there is no reasonable way to opt out.

  • Curt2004||

    Fuck off slaver.

  • ||

    "have the decency not to shit all over their carpet."

    Strange that in your metaphor for a nation, the citizens are untrained dogs, but I can respond to that.

    When rules are applied arbitrarily, and you may get beaten anyway, why bother to go outside?

  • Bill Penn||

    Kids get plenty of time as adults to do dumb sh for political reasons. And they do lots of things as kids they have to bc an adults says so. Stand up. I know mom and dad told you what to believe under their roof. While your under OUR roof. Tax payer, most likely, roof...you will stand. And have manners. Show respect and follow direction. Think, believe, on your own time do as you please. But yer at school, pay the fk attention.

  • 0x1000||

    This is what the reason comment section has become. Sigh.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    What, that kids have reduced rights because they are under the Age of Majority?

    The Age of Consent, you are under a different set of rules. Parental rights should apply too.

    This lady is 18 now, so I am not sure why this is even a thing since you cannot force an adult to cite the pledge of allegiance.

  • No Yards Penalty||

    Hey Bill,
    I wipe my ass with the Stars n Stripes. And I think you're an authoritarian faggot.
    Now crawl back to Breitbart you statist fuckwit.

  • perlchpr||

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The article says that she is 18 years old. She still needs her parent's permission?

  • OldGuy||

    The pledge is much like an oath. An oath is something you don't have to repeat every single day. You say it once. This first thing in the morning ceremony is just so much meaningless theatre. And allegiance to a piece of cloth? Give me a break.

    An oath is also something you should understand and agree with. How many school children really understand the words or their intent? Far too many people mumble the pledge, or mouth the words of the anthem, anxious just to get on with the day or for the first pitch.

    Oh, and Texas school children also recite the Texas Pledge. The first time I heard it I almost laughed out loud.

  • Curt2004||

    +1

  • vek||

    Well, she should have the right to not do the pledge... And I should have the right to say she is most likely a moron, who holds close to 100% wrong headed political views, and I wish she didn't live in this country. Hopefully she will choose to move to Canada or Europe where her shit lib ways will be more respected.

  • WJack||

    Amen.

    Certainly there is a right to not pledge. Those who will not pledge in this country owe it to themselves to find a country where they can pledge allegiance, and be happy.

  • Curt2004||

    Fortunately, you don't get to decide that. Freedom is the only thing this country has to offer and it gets chipped away every day.

  • WJack||

    Guess it is necessary to point out the obvious . . . those who are so unhappy here as to not pledge allegiance, or stand for the anthem are as clueless as spoiled children, i.e., showing contempt when they should be grateful.

  • vek||

    Well, you say that now... But if shit goes sideways, we may well end up expelling people like this en masse. And good riddance. If we have a civil war I think banishment to Canada or Europe is the best way to do it, versus mass murder or whatever... It's less fun of course, but far more civilized! LOL

  • WJack||

    Yep.

  • markm23||

    Since you don't believe in at least one of the USA's basic principles and traditions, when are you leaving?

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    Has anyone written a libertarian acceptable alternative to the pledge of allegiance?

    It might be kind of entertaining to see how widely it could get traction.

    I think in this climate, a well written pledge of ... non-allegiance? might get a lot of play in the media and on those you tubes.

  • Uncle Jay||

    Now how else is the Texas AG going to show this student what freedom means if he doesn't use government coercion to force the kid to do something she doesn't want to do?

  • TxJack 112||

    I am confused, The article says she is kneeling to protest authoritarian police behavior but then says she is kneeling to support NFL players who kneel. Those are totally different reasons. Sorry, but this entire movement is garbage. First Kaepernick did not start kneeling to protest police. He started kneeling to protest being benched and replaced as the starter for the 49ers. The police angle was added later when he was asked because "I am mad and throwing a temper tantrum" is bad PR when you are about to negotiate a new contract. Second, there players are kneeling because it is good for their image. They do not give a crap about the issue because name one of them who has been outspoken on the issue during the off season. I have little doubt if you asked the girl to elaborate on the actual issues she is "protesting" she would not be able to cite a single credible issue. Stop pretending kneeling for the anthem is anything more than a way for arrogant to draw attention to themselves.

  • markm23||

    I have a dream. It's that some official like this AG gets his court hearing - only it's about how much he will be fined for wasting the court's time, plus an inquiry into whether he is unfit to be a lawyer because he is ignorant of this country's most important laws, or unfit to be a lawyer and under indictment for knowingly attempting to violate those laws.

  • markm23||

    I have a dream. It's that some official like this AG gets his court hearing - only it's about how much he will be fined for wasting the court's time, plus an inquiry into whether he is unfit to be a lawyer because he is ignorant of this country's most important laws, or unfit to be a lawyer and under indictment for knowingly attempting to violate those laws.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online