In today's exercise in faux patrio-piety, Rep. Hal Wick presented House Bill 1150, to require all K-12 students in South Dakota to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, to House State Affairs this morning.

Rep. Wick said his bill came about because some nice young boy wanted to say the Pledge on September 11 (the new high holy day that justifies all excesses) and was denied by his school. Rep. Wick did not clarify whether this unnamed young man asked permission to say it the Pledge himself or whether he asked that everyone be required to recite the Pledge with him. Those two requests would be very different.

Wade Pogany testified on behalf of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota to support the mandatory Pledge. Pogany said his proponent testimony probably surprised some folks, since the school boards usually stand for local control against state mandates. However, said Pogany, "certain things... are more important than local control." Indeed there are... like CYA when legislators are wrapping themselves in the flag and you don't want to be painted a godless Commie.

Did I mention God? Dale Bartscher from the Family Heritage Alliance certainly did. "It is fitting," said Bartscher, "that we begin the school day by honoring God and country."

No, it is absolutely not fitting that we begin the day requiring every public school student to honor God, not in an America ruled by the First Amendment.

Notice that Bartscher put "God" first in his statement, exposing the real priorities of HB 1150. It's not a civics lesson; it's a wedge for the theocrats to force their God into public classrooms.

A proponent from Pierre, Kathy Lucas, said something about remembering a classmate who didn't recite the Pledge or celebrate birthdays because of his religion. She didn't tie that brief anecdote together with her support of HB 1150; she blithely ignored the fact that she will force more children into that awkward position of having to explain why they aren't doing what everyone else in the classroom is doing (were none of you people seven years old? Do none of you remember how hard it was to be different?).

Rep. Wick did say that students who choose not to say the Pledge face no penalty; they may "stand down but remain at attention." I thought standing down and standing at attention were mutually exclusive actions, but Rep. Wick's language reminds us that we can't expect some Republicans to make sense. His language also reminds us that HB 1150, in requiring a "respectful silence" of Pledge objectors, violates the Constitution. Students are forced to either say specific words that may violate their conscience or to be silent. Forced speech or forced silence—I invite your judgment of which is worse.

No one rose to argue that a pledge to any flag is un-Christian. No one reminded Rep. Wick that compelled speech (religious or otherwise) is unconstitutional. No one rose to remind the sponsor and the committee that there are much more pressing issues facing our children than the need to incant certain formulas every day. House State Affairs approved HB 1150 13–0 and sent it to the full House.

A socialist wrote the Pledge to sell flags. Rep. Wick and Bartscher are forcing the Pledge now to sell God. I love America, but the more I hear about the Pledge, the more I see people using it for their own schemes, the less comfortable I am about saying the Pledge myself or requiring students to say it with me.

p.s.: Oklahoma is considering a similar Pledge mandate. Bill author Sen. Rob Standridge says its purely a grassroots effort. Sen. Standridge and Rep. Wick are both ALEC members. Coincidences abound.