By Mason Pendleton
Since Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling, people have been arguing that this form of protest during the national anthem should not be permitted. Should this argument be brought into the school setting with the Pledge of Allegiance?
Students should not be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because it is protected under the First Amendment , and while the Pledge of Allegiance is a very important ritual, it’s not one that needs to be enforced.
The phrase “under God” can conflict with the religious beliefs of groups such as Jehovah’s Witness, Hindus or Amish communities. Therefore, the pledge of allegiance should not be required. People who don’t believe in putting something before God or people who simply don’t believe in a god, do have issues taking a pledge that disrespects their core beliefs. According to Oyez.org, in 1942, a family of Jehovah’s Witness children refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for religious reasons. They were sent home for insubordination and threatened with Juvenile detention for being so disrespectful. In the end it was decided that the students were actually in the right with their First Amendment freedom to practice their religion freely. Being forced to stand for the flag was ruled unconstitutional and therefore policies requiring one to stand were made illegal.
Choosing to sit during the pledge is a form of peaceful protest. Until someone is hurt from a person protesting by not standing for the pledge of allegiance, it’s still legal and protected as a form of symbolic speech, which is a part of the First Amendment. You do not shed your first amendment rights in school, as decided in Des Moines vs. Tinker.
According to ACLU.org, in 1965, a group of students wanted to protest the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands in support of the truce. The Des Moines independent community school did not want this and told any student they would be suspended if they wore the bands. After their suspensions, the Tinker siblings went to court and demanded the right to protest; they won the case and it was ruled that as long as your protest does not cause a “substantial disruption,” you can protest in school.
Some argue that not standing for the pledge is disrespectful. However, freedom means different things to different people. It is seen as being unpatriotic to not stand for the pledge, but the pledge should not be your entire basis of your pride in America. There are other ways to prove your devotion to your country, Being a part of the military is an obvious form of devotion. Being a part of voting and other government activities are also patriotic and available for everyone. It helps our country press forward.
The people who protest by sitting for the flag want change; that’s why they do it. The best way to make change is to be a part of the government.
Maybe then, the protestors can proudly hold their hands over their hearts again.