Tuesday night the Sioux Falls School Board invited controversy by expanding its policy to require middle school students to recite the socialist flag-marketing slogan known as the Pledge of Allegiance along with elementary students. But the board declared that high school students are too busy for compelled speech.
Enter Rep. Hal Wick (R-12/Sioux Falls), who hates government mandates except when he doesn't. In his latest bout of Legislative Tourette's Syndrome, Rep. Wick wants the state legislature to order every public and private school student in South Dakota to say the Pledge of Allegiance every school day. No word yet on whether Wick plans to make refusal to pledge a felony, misdemeanor, or grounds for detention.
Stunningly, school board member Kent Alberty, a good Democrat who ran for District 12's Senate seat in hopes of countering Wick's political foolishness, says that if Wick's proposal becomes law, his school district will comply:
Kent Alberty, a school board member, said if Wick succeeds in getting the Legislature to require the Pledge, the district will comply with that. The 5-0 vote included Alberty, Carly Reiter, Todd Thoelke, Doug Morrison and Kate Parker.
“What we did on Tuesday night was to expand a policy that required the Pledge of Allegiance at the elementary schools to include middle schools and to make it mandatory. We also have given high schools, in policy, instructions to either have the Pledge or presentation of the colors or something patriotic at any high school assembly,” Alberty said.
“We expanded the policy. If the Legislature in its wisdom sees fit to pass a law that says it’s required, of course we would follow that” [Jon Walker, "Lawmaker Wants Pledge Recited Daily in S.D. Schools," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.11.15].
This is Jesus, Kent! Stop forcing kids to say Dad's name and other things in which they may or may not believe. Both Wick's proposal and the policy the school board unanimously approved Tuesday are unconstitutional, as declared in 1943 by the United States Supreme Court in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette. In that case, some nice Jehovah's Witnesses contended that forcing their kids to pledge allegiance to any flag in school violated their religious rights. (Never mind that the "Bellamy salute," as practiced then in conjunction with the Pledge that Francis Bellamy wrote to sell flags, also looked an awful lot like what kids across the pond wearing swastikas were doing.) The Court jumped over the free exercise argument and went for free speech:
In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court overruled its decision in Minersville School District v. Gobitis and held that compelling public schoolchildren to salute the flag was unconstitutional. The Court found that salutes of the type mandated by the West Virginia State Board of Education were forms of utterance and thus were a means of communicating ideas. "Compulsory unification of opinion," the Court held, was doomed to failure and was antithetical to the values set forth in the First Amendment. Writing for the majority, Justice Jackson eloquently stated: "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 politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." To underscore its decision, the Supreme Court announced it on Flag Day [Wikipedia, downloaded 2013.11.16].
Oh yeah, did I mention that decision came in 1943, in the middle of World War II? Instead of screaming about taking our country back from godless liberals on the Court, conservatives stood shoulder to shoulder with liberals and went on to beat the Nazis and the Japanese and continue our perfectly healthy Union. So, if i may adopt Republican-style logic, rejecting the Pledge wins wars.
Compelled speech is unconstitutional. Kent, Sioux Falls School Board, instead of embracing it, you should be vowing to do your constitutional duty to fight it. If Wick's madness passes the Legislature, be ready to go to court and lose.