Burgum calls for legislation to allow Pledge of Allegiance in all North Dakota schools

(The Center Square) – Republican North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said he wants legislation to allow the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited in every public school and during meetings of elected governing bodies.

“America is the land of opportunity. And students in every public school in North Dakota, along with elected governing bodies and those who attend their meetings, should have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and express support for the American ideals upon which our country was founded,” Burgum said in a news release. “To that end, our administration is creating a framework for legislation to guarantee that the opportunity exists to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, as other states have done. We look forward to working with lawmakers to bring a proposal to the 68th Legislative Assembly in January. As North Dakotans and Americans, we believe strongly in the value of this traditional and powerful affirmation that we are one nation, united under one flag, with liberty and justice for all, aspiring toward a more perfect union and acknowledging that such noble work never ends.”

Republican State Sen. Scott Meyer, of Grand Forks, and Republican state Reps. Pat Heinert, of Bismarck, and Todd Porter, of Mandan, said in the news release they would write the legislation.

On Aug. 9, the Fargo School Board voted 7-2 to no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings.

During the meeting, Board Member Seth Holden said the pledge included “under God,” which referred to the Christian god and didn’t include any other faiths and made the pledge a “non-inclusionary act.”

“We are one nation under many or no gods,” Holden said during the meeting.

He said the pledge also had “an untrue statement” when it claimed the U.S. was “one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all” and board members should not recite a pledge that contains untrue statements.

The Hill reported in April that 47 states require that the Pledge of Allegiance be recited in public schools, but they must provide exemptions for students and staff members who want to opt-out.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on this controversy about 80 years ago.

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette that states could not mandate a compulsory salute to the flag, according to the National Constitution Center. The Supreme Court found that a salute was a “form of utterance” that government could not compel without “offending the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment,” according to the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression.

In that 1943 ruling, Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote, “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 matters of politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word their faith therein.”

In 2004, a federal appeals court struck down a Pennsylvania law that required private and public schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the law was a violation of the First Amendment, according to the ACLU.

“You can’t compel patriotism and by trying you only sacrifice freedom,” Witold Walczak, litigation director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a 2004 news release.

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