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Archive for Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Pledge optional

June 18, 2003

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To the editor:

Noting in a recent letter (Public Forum, June 9) that some students did not stand for the morning Pledge of Allegiance, the writer adds that disrespecting the flag during the pledge "disrespects that same flag when it is draped over the coffin of a service member who has died preserving that 'option.'"

He seems to oppose the exercise of an option that some have died to preserve.

There are several reasons to preserve that option. Some students are citizens of another country, here temporarily. They should not be required to say our pledge nor questioned about their choice.

Some Jehovah's Witnesses or Mennonites have religious reasons not to say the pledge. A Supreme Court decision, made in wartime in 1943, upheld that option. At that time, the enforced patriotic conformity in Nazi Germany may have led a justice to write: "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves eliminating dissenters." Patriotism may flourish best when patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and not compulsory. (Quoted and paraphrased from West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943).

The request for the pledge should be made thus: "Those who wish to, may now stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance." Students who do not comply should not be questioned. Any person may refuse to stand for the pledge and may remain quietly in a seat. The pledge itself favors "liberty and justice for all."

Mary Davidson,

Lawrence

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