Teacher Forces Student to Recite the 'Pledge of Allegiance' Even Though It's Against His Religion

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A teacher in Florida was suspended without pay after grabbing a fourth grade boy's hand, placing it over his heart, and forcing him to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. No one flinched when this happened in my Catholic grade school, but the problem in this case is that she taught at a public school and the boy is a Jehovah's Witness. The child, who respectfully stood up with the rest of his classmates, explained to his teacher that his faith prevents him from worshipping objects, but she reportedly insisted that he was an American and expected to salute the flag. 

I was born and raised in America, am proud to be American, and have no issues with the word "God" or the fact that it was added to the Pledge in 1954 and, like it or not, has taken on a message that is as religious as it is patriotic. But, from a parent's point of view, public schools do not have the right to impose values that contradict my family's religious beliefs. Plain and simple. 

I am open to the possibility that this teacher wasn't fully aware of her student's religious beliefs. Public school teachers, especially those in urban areas, are exposed to children from a variety of religious backgrounds and it's irrational to expect them to have a solid understanding of every one of them. As a parent, I would have met with this teacher early on in the year to explain that certain celebrations or school rituals were against our family's faith

But let's assume that happened. From that point on, the student's right to not say the Pledge, but to either sit or stand respectfully while others practiced their right to say it, is perfectly acceptable. And let's take things even further, shall we? If a public school plans to teach sex ed or evolution or any other subject that we know is controversial for families of certain faiths, parents have the right to be forewarned and then to decide whether they think their children should be allowed to participate or sit out.

Freedom of religion trumps the freedom schools have to teach certain subjects. The purpose of public education is to prepare students for citizenship, help them become critical thinkers, and train them to compete in a global marketplace. Its purpose is not to force certain beliefs down their throats. And if you want to make the argument that this teacher was helping her student become better citizens by forcing the Pledge on him, well, I would argue that the compassion he showed by standing and his ability to respect the rights of his peers prove this child has the makings of a pretty decent citizen.

Do you think parents have the right to keep their kids from performing certain rituals or learning subjects because of their religious beliefs?


Image via Ann Oro/Flickr

behavior, education, elementary school, family, high school, in the news, middle school, tweens


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CLM3345 CLM3345

This teacher sounds like a jerk. He stood with the others, which should have been enough for her. I don't think parents should have to go to the teachers every year and explain themselves. The child saying he's Jehovah's Witness should be enough explanation. I think parents should be able to let their children opt out of religious ceremonies. But no, they shouldn't be allowed to opt out of certain subjects because of their religious beliefs. They go to school to learn and sometimes they'll need to learn about things that don't follow their beliefs. If parents are so picky they would try and tell the school what classes their child can participate in, they need to figure out how to home school.

bunny... bunnyxlover

reciting the pledge is worshiping???

teddy... teddysmama09

I am one of Jehovah's witnesses. We have a brochure that we give to teachers at the beginning of the year explaining out religious views on things like holidays and saying pledges. We typically meet with the teacher before school starts and explain all this in person.

bunnyxlover- we do view the pledge as a form of worship, as it is a pledge of allegiance. We only pledge allegiance to God. We also remain politically neutral. 

nekoy... nekoyukidoll

with the sex ed (at least at my schools) permission slips were sent home and students could only attend if they were signed as well as "questionable" films.  I agree the teacher was out of line (there is no law saying the student had to recite the pledge) and handled it the wrong way; he could have used it as a learning experience to educate diversity.  

Sondra Best

Freedom of religion trumps the freedom schools have to teach certain subjects. 

And that is why this world is going to hell. There are more important things in this world than religion and if parents refuse to teach their kids then it is the school's job to do so. If I were to claim that Atheism refuses to allow my kid to study math, would my kid be excused from math? If I claimed that Atheism states that my child must be taught by the school that religions are evil, would they do it? Absolutely not. Where is the line drawn? 

The Pledge of Allegiance is part of being an American. I said it every day in school. I said it every day at home. I still say it every day in college. I still say it every day at home. Why? Because this nation is my highest calling. The betterment of my country -and of the world, but primarily my country- is what I strive for as an American. It is what we are all supposed to strive for. If you have no allegiance to your country, can you even call yourself a citizen?

Elaine Cox

Its funny that the stir now wants kids to be able to enjoy their freedom when the girl in the race from two days ago was a crazy god junkie..I guess only christians shold get over it and everyone else is protected

nonmember avatar SickOfHearingIt

Elaine, abstaining from participating in government is a tenet of the Jehovah's Witness faith. That runner girl was a nitwit who gives a superstition more power than it deserves. There is nothing in the bible about 666 being the mark of the devil. JW believe that it states in the bible that you do not participate in politics. Most JW stand respectfully during the pledge, they just don't put their hand over their heart and recite the pledge. I've gone to school with Jehovah's Witnesses all my life and there has never been an issue. Unlike Ms. 666, who was asking for special treatment.

Nelli... NellieAthome

There is more to this than the author notes

First it is school policy that no student is required to say the Pledge nor do they have to give a reason. So even if the teacher was unaware that Jehovah's Witnesses do not make pledges or take oaths she was clearly in violation of a school policy she is required to be familiar with.

Second, she did more than make the child say thePledge - she forcibly took his hand and physically placed it over his heart.

Third - to Sondra Best. Saying the Pledge daily no more makes you a good American than going to church every Sunday makes one a good Christian. Forcing someone to say the Pledge or supporting the idea that people should be forced to do things against their beliefs violates the very ideals expressed in the Pledge. If the betterment of your country is your highest calling then you should be crying out against this teacher who violated this child's American rights. There is no "line drawn" when it comes to respecting the Constitutional rights of ALL Americans, not just the ones you agree with.


Nelli... NellieAthome

The original 1892 pledge was "I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Consider the words "one nation indivisible". One nation composed of many different parts, many different people with many different beliefs but ALL part of the whole, ALL treated with the same respect and all having the same rights. Not one nation all forced into a cookie cutter belief that is not allowed to vary from the anyone else's.

Consider the words "Liberty and Justice for all"

Liberty - the liberty to believe what one wants and to practice one's religion freely". Not the "liberty to follow one's beliefs so long as the vocal majority approves of them"

When this teacher forced an action on a child that is against his religion she showed a total lack of respect for the pledge, for the ideals the pledge promotes and for the country itself.

Oh, and physically forcing the child to take an action he did not want to also makes her a child abuser

bella... bellacazzate

I cracked up at Sondra Best's comment. All I can see is a woman bolting out of bed as soon as the alarm sounds and launching into "I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE. TO THE. FLAG. OF. THE. UNITED. STATES. OVUHMEHRIKA" (intonation and pace mine). 

I haven't said the pledge in at least 10 years and I left the US in 2006, but I'm still a half-decent citizen. I just measure my worth is HCPM (hamburgers consumed per month). 

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