A group of Republican state senators have proposed a bill that would make the Pledge of Allegiance mandatory for every public school student in Michigan.
Republican state Sen. Roger Kahn’s SB 637 would also require schools to purchase a flag for every classroom.
“THE BOARD OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT OR BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMY SHALL ENSURE THAT EACH PUPIL IN EACH PUBLIC SCHOOL IT OPERATES IS REQUIRED TO RECITE THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES EACH SCHOOL DAY,” the bill says.
The group Michigan Atheists opposes the bill, but not so much because of the phrase “under God” that students would be forced to say.
“The ‘under God’ is far less important to me than the entire sense that requiring the Pledge of Allegiance is just plain wrong,” Michigan Atheists director Arlene Marie told South Bend Tribune. “It is divisive and there are many reasons why parents would not want their children to say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Marie explained that many of the children would be too young to understand what taking a pledge means, and some religions like Jehovah’s Witnesses forbid followers from citing pledges.
“Many children in our public schools are not even citizens of this country,” she added.
Trinity College professor Barry Kosmin estimates that as many as 25 percent of young people in the U.S. do not have a specific faith.
Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy wrote the Pledge in 1892 as a part of a campaign to sell flags to schools. The words “under God” were added by Congress 1954 because President Dwight Eisenhower perceived a threat from secular Communism.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that forcing students to cite the pledge was unconstitutional unless parents were given the opportunity to have the final say on whether their child participates.
“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,” Justice Robert Jackson wrote for the majority.
“We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”
To address those concerns, members of a state Senate committee added language to the Michigan legislation that would allow parents to opt out.
Republican state Sens. Rick Jones, Patrick Colbeck, Michael Green, Tonya Schuitmaker, Howard Walker, Goeffrey Hansen, Jack Brandenburg, and John Pappageorge are co-sponsoring the bill.
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