An Arizona Republican official is hoping to force children to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, by law, unless they are explicitly excused from doing so by their parents.
Rep. John Fillmore of Apache Junction introduced House Bill 2017 late last month, which would require all K-12 students to stand for the daily pledge unless parents intervene to excuse them. Students would also be required to sit for at least one minute to engage in so-called “quiet reflection and moral reasoning.”
Schools in Arizona, like most across the nation, designate time for students to recite the pledge if they are so inclined. However, the law does not compel people to participate in such patriotic displays unless they choose to.
In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a similar law in West Virginia that required students to stand for the pledge on the basis that it would violate the First Amendment’s requirement of free speech and religious freedom, and the Fourteenth Amendment’s requirement of due process.
At the time, the Supreme Court issued an opinion declaring 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.”
Gov. Doug Ducey, who is also a Republican, commented Tuesday that he wasn’t aware of any requirement for students to say the pledge, but he refrained from commenting on the pending legislation—simply commenting that he believes that reciting the pledge is “a great idea.”
According to the Arizona Republic, Ducey told reporters:
“I’m a fan of the Pledge of Allegiance … I would be hopeful that all of our kids, especially our kids in grade school, would begin each day with the pledge.”
However, when pressed on whether he would embrace a bill that would deny students who don’t believe in the pledge the right to refrain from reciting it, he gave a somewhat clearer response:
“No. I think of course, you have an option.
This is America … That’s why I’m not commenting on the bill. I’m commenting on the idea of saying the pledge, which is a good idea every day.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has repeatedly defended students’ right to refrain from reciting the pledge, has argued that the proposed law would violate students’ rights.
Various local governments and school districts have attempted to undermine the 1943 decision by punishing students who don’t say the pledge.
In 1998, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against a San Diego, California school district that required a dissenting student to stand silently for the pledge, exit the classroom, or face detention. The school district later settled out of court with the civil liberties group and changed its policy.
ACLU of Arizona spokeswoman Marcella Taracena told KTAR news that students themselves have the right to choose whether or not to recite the pledge. She said:
“You know, the Supreme Court made it clear decades ago that forcing students to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional.
Requiring them to seek parent approval takes away that individual [First Amendment] right.
What if the student has conflicting views with the parent? What if the student is estranged? Or, what if they have opposing political views? This can really chill their speech because it’s requiring kids to seek that approval.”
In addition to HB 2017, Fillmore also filed 32 other bills including HB 2005, which would put a halt to education about intimate partner or domestic violence in schools, and filed HB 2022, which would prohibit schools from discussing the “economic and social implications” of environmental topics.