Much as I love the words, meanings and traditions of our Pledge of Allegiance, I think reciting it at a time and place chosen by others is coercive and goes against the grain of the Pledge's ultimate assertion, that we live in a nation that is committed to "liberty and justice for all." When I'm at one of my VFW gatherings, which I attend at my own free will, and I'm asked to lead the Pledge, I actually get some goose bumps, I really do. The moment is rich with ceremony and tradition, the words redolent of a commitment I once made to put on a uniform that said "United States Marine Corps", which led to my faithfully following orders to stop bullets in Vietnam for thirteen months. The questionable motives and outcomes of that war notwithstanding, the Marine Corps does not have a prouder old vet, nor does the Pledge of Allegiance have a more enthusiastic believer in its ideals. As a professed Christian, I'm certainly okay with the words "under God," but have no qualms about those who'd prefer to skip the phrase when choosing to participate in its recitation.
After all, isn't that the essence of "liberty and justice?" We're free to be who we want to be in this country. If I were a child who was growing up in a home that finds it intolerable, for whatever reason, to be forced to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I would be feeling like my liberties were denied when I had to set aside time from every school day to participate in a recitation of the pledge. Even if I weren't forced to actually say the Pledge, I'd be required to hand over my time to a ritual that goes against the grain of my beliefs. That's not the standard of Americanism that is the essence of the Pledge of Allegiance. This is why I can't support some legislation being discussed in South Dakota that would "require that the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States
be recited at the start of each school day in every public school
First off, I don't like state legislators mandating what goes on inside our public school classrooms. Left to their politically-driven devices, elected officials can come up with any variety of activities or curricular requirements that have less to do with education, more to do with indoctrination. My general view is that elected officials should stay out of content decisions when it comes to classroom time. To those who say this conversation is much ado about very little--after all, the Pledge of Allegiance requires a mere 45 seconds to recite--I say their view trivializes a very serious principle: is forcing government-mandated rituals on our students a legitimate function of our elected officials? I don't think so. For example, I believe that mandated religious activities are repugnant while studies of religion are not only valid but an essential part of a complete education. By that same standard I think that reciting the Pledge as a ritual is inappropriate, while studying the Pledge's contents as a course in American History and Government is a valuable component of a South Dakota student's education. I'm confident that young people studying it as part of a subject, discussing it, being tested on it, will get a much deeper understanding of the Pledge of Allegiance's glorious ideals than merely reciting it by rote as a necessary adjunct to being in class.