The Volokh Conspiracy

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Free Speech

80 Years After S. Ct. Held Pledge of Allegiance Couldn't Be Mandated in Public School, Public School Seems to Try to Mandate It


Email from the school, as reported by FIRE.


From the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression letter sent today to the Twin Ridge Elementary School (Maryland):

Our concerns arise out of an April 26 email TRES sent to school staff to address confusion regarding what conduct is required during the Pledge of Allegiance. The email  represented that per Maryland Education Code § 7-105(c)(3), "all students and teachers are required 'to stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance.'" But the email failed to mention the opt-out provision of subsection (d), which states: "Any student or teacher who wishes to be excused from the requirements of subsection (c)(3) of this section shall be excused."

Not only does the TRES directive misrepresent Maryland law by suggesting it requires participation without allowing abstention, that misdescription of the law is one the First Amendment prohibits…. Over 80 years ago, in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Supreme Court invalidated a requirement that schoolchildren salute the U.S. flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Even in the dark days of World War II, the Court recognized that requiring students to pledge allegiance to a national symbol is contrary to our national commitment to freedom of conscience. As the Court explained, "if there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." …

I called the school's main number to ask whether it had a statement, and the person answering the phones said she had no idea, and hung up on me. If any readers know of any errors in FIRE's account of the matter, please let me know; I have generally found FIRE's factual accounts quite trustworthy.