It’s ALL about ME, Pledge of Allegiance case: Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District

8 Sep


The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. [Emphasis Added]
Abraham Lincoln
Annual Message to Congress — Concluding Remarks
Washington, D.C.
December 1, 1862

Brian M. Rosenthal of the Seattle Times wrote an excellent report in the Seattle Times about the flap involving whether students at John Stanford International School will be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Keep in mind that both Washington State law and Seattle School District policy require the saying of the Pledge. In, Pledge of Allegiance sparks controversy at John Stanford, Rosenthal quotes parent, Haley Sides:

When Haley Sides moved to Seattle after four years in the Air Force, she chose to settle in Wallingford so her 6-year-old daughter could attend John Stanford International School — an educational community promoting the same type of multiculturalism Sides has tried to instill in her half-Jamaican daughter.
Sides was outraged when the school’s new principal announced this week that students will be asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each day. The practice, which has long been mandated by district policy and state law but has not traditionally been observed at John Stanford, will start Monday.
“It pains me to think that at a school that emphasizes thinking globally we would institute something that makes our children think that this country alone is where their allegiance lies,” said Sides, her voice oscillating between disappointment and anger.

Well, excuse moi. Girlfriend, you happen to live in this country which still has the goal of educating children no matter their gender, race, or creed. In many countries YOUR daughter would not be afforded the opportunity to attend a primary school and college wouldn’t even be a consideration.

Mark Walsh reported in the Education Week article, Massachusetts High Court Weighs Pledge of Allegiance in Schools:

A lawyer for a group of atheist and humanist families argued before the highest court of Massachusetts that a state law requiring public schools to lead daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance violates the state constitution.
“This case presents a classic equal-protection situation where an unpopular and wrongly vilified minority faces obvious official discrimination,” David A. Niose told the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Sept. 4.
A family identified as the Does, with parents and three school-aged children described as atheists and humanists, challenged the state law requiring the pledge in schools because of the inclusion of the words “under God.”
The children have not been required to recite the pledge themselves, in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1943 decision in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. But the family argues that schools conduct a patriotic exercise that “exalts and validates” one religious view—a belief in God—while marginalizing their “religious views” on atheism and humanism, as their legal brief puts it.
“By inserting ‘under God’ language into the pledge, we have a pledge where children, every morning, are pledging their national unity and loyalty in an indoctrinational format, in a way that validates God belief as truly patriotic and actually invalidates atheism as second-class citizenry at best and downright unpatriotic at worst,” Niose told the Massachusetts high court.
(The oral arguments in Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District are available in video form at the Web site of the Supreme Judicial Court, which is where I observed them.)
The Does, joined by the American Humanist Association, are challenging the Massachusetts law under the state constitution’s equal-protection guarantee, not as a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on any government establishment of religion or its guarantee of free exercise of religion.
The U.S. Supreme Court famously took up a case involving an establishment challenge to school-led recitations of the pledge. But in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, the court held in 2004 that an atheist father who had challenged the practice in his daughter’s school lacked standing because he did not have custody of the girl.
That atheist, Michael A. Newdow, organized a new challenge that included another family, and that suit led to a 2010 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, that school recitations of the pledge were predominantly patriotic exercises and did not violate the establishment clause.
Later that year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, in Boston, upheld a New Hampshire law that requires schools to set aside time for teachers to lead the pledge.
In the Doe case, a Massachusetts trial court held that school recitations of the pledge did not violate the rights of the atheist and humanist children under the state’s Equal Rights Amendment.
During Tuesday’s arguments before the state high court, the lawyer for the Acton-Boxborough district said that the pledge is not inherently religious and the recitations of it do not create a disadvantaged class of religious-minority students….

Here is the video:

What do the remarks of President Lincoln have to do with the flap involving the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance flap at John Stanford International School in Seattle or in Massachusetts? It is about developing the Common Good. Whether one believes the cause of the Civil War was to eliminate slavery or not, the war was fought to keep a fragile union in-tact. In much of the world, tribes or clans are the governing authorities. Far from being an idyllic life governed by the romantic concept of the naïve of rule by “Noble Savages,” these clans and tribes often dispense brutal and harsh “justice.” See, Rosseau and the Noble Savage Myth: Because of many disparate cultures, many countries are in the midst of civil wars or in danger of breaking apart.

It is fascinating to moi that so many of those who claim the other side is intolerant are just as intolerant. True tolerance does not involve giving up one’s beliefs or demanding that others sacrifice their beliefs. Sometimes it involves listening with courtesy to ideas that you will never agree with. Often it involves acting with gasp, decorum. This country is a nation of immigrants, some were the original aboriginal people, others voluntarily immigrated, still others were brought here as slaves and others fled their homes because of repression. We’re all here together. There have to be some common cultural norms so that those with different cultures and histories can peacefully co-exist. The U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and certain ideas which have evolved over time like public education are examples of the glue that can hold disparate groups together. The Pledge of Allegiance is another example of the common cultural experience. Of course, some quibble with the phrase, “Under God.” Let’s go back to the concept of tolerance. defines tolerance:

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions,practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’sown;freedom from bigotry.
a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.
interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one’s own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.

The people who find the Pledge so intolerable probably would not have understood President Lincoln’s preservation of the “Union.” Unlike President Lincoln who understood the power of words and symbolism, for whom the “Union” was all about US. The permanently aggrieved often see the world in terms of ME.

In the final analysis, for many who are so excised by the Pledge, it is not about you or US, but it is about ME.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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