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May 12 2014

Dateline 1937: Student Punished for Not Saying Pledge

45 of 50 states now require schools to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day, but the law says that no student can be forced to say it. But a student in Texas was just punished for refusing to say the pledge, both by his teacher and the principal.

Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

For the most this year, his silent protest has gone unnoticed. But on Wednesday, when a different teacher observed it for the very first time, the Needville High School sophomore ran into trouble.

“And she told me this is my classroom,” said Michalec. “This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand. And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up.”

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued.

Young man, call the ACLU immediately. This is not some close legal call, the Supreme Court ruled on this more than 70 years ago. No student can be forced to say the pledge. It’s one of the most famous court rulings in American history, containing one of the most iconic passages ever to come from the court, written by Justice Robert Jackson:

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.

That the school administration is so ignorant of this important ruling and of this student’s constitutional rights is appalling. If they don’t back down they should be sued immediately.

36 comments

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  1. 1
    Reginald Selkirk

    Oh, but Ed, it’s not like they’re coercing him to recite the pledge. They’re jsut telling him he’ll be punished if he doesn’t. I’m sure Scalia, Alito and Thomas would have no problem with that.

  2. 2
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Well, this anti-constitutional slap against his rights will teach him that the government is worthy of reverent respect!

  3. 3
    Larry

    Because nothing says Love of Country like being forced to say a bunch of words.

  4. 4
    Kevin Kehres

    But you’re discriminating against the teacher and the principle for their right to force a student to say the pledge!

    (This message brought to you by the Republican Party and asshats everywhere.)

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    Because a compulsory pledge is totally valid.

  6. 6
    doublereed

    Please, the student clearly brought this on himself for thinking he had rights in the first place.

  7. 7
    magistramarla

    Not at all surprised that it’s Texas.
    When I was teaching, I had a lovely exchange student from Spain in my Latin class.
    Her PE coach tried to force her to say the pledge to the American flag. He made her run laps as “punishment” and eventually wrote her up. Luckily for her, the administration realized how wrong this was.
    They switched her Latin class so that she was with me for the pledge time and so that she had a different PE instructor. In my class, I simply ignored the students who chose to remain seated, and there were a number of them. Several of them noticed that I left out the “under god” part, so they did too.
    During the moment of silence, I used the time to quickly take attendance on the computer so that we could get right to work on what was more important – education.

  8. 8
    Synfandel

    Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension…

    Is that like making you come to school while they forbid you to come to school?

  9. 9
    iknklast

    Synfandel – that means you have to go to school, but you can’t go to class.

    My son went to high school in Oklahoma. He chose not to say the pledge. His history teacher noticed. He was told “I can’t make you say the pledge, but if you don’t show respect to me, my country, and my God, then I don’t have to do anything to help you pass this class”. Threat? Absolutely. However, I maintain that it is the obligation of the teacher to do whatever they need to do for the student, regardless of whether the student respects them or not. I teach all my students equally, even though some of them choose to disrespect me (if they don’t disrupt class, I ignore them).

    I didn’t know about FFRF at the time this happened to my son (or AU, AA, or any of the other groups that would have helped). I had minimal income, and could not fight it on my own; plus, I worked with a bunch of fundamentalists in such a difficult atmosphere that I referred to myself as a deist because I didn’t want to have to be afraid every time I went to work. And I had no support of my family. I told him to make whatever decision he felt best, but we weren’t in a position to fight back against the school in an area where it can be dangerous to be a non-conformist.

  10. 10
    freemage

    Notice the double-punch irony here: the kid’s objecting to actions taken, for the most part, by a Democratic president. This means it’s likely that he’s so devoutly Republican that he’s refusing to swear allegiance to a government run by the other party–and the wingnuts are going after him for it.

    Love it, love it, love it.

  11. 11
    Reginald Selkirk

    the kid’s objecting to actions taken, for the most part, by a Democratic president.

    I’m not sure which Internet laws he’s talking about, but laws are attributable to Congress; and the NSA spying started under a Republican president before being continued by a Democratic one.

  12. 12
    Taz

    the Supreme Court ruled on this more than 70 years ago

    It’s still Obama’s fault.

  13. 13
    dingojack

    WWCBP?*
    Dingo
    ——–
    * What Would Cliven Bundy Pledge?

  14. 14
    matty1
    the Supreme Court ruled on this more than 70 years ago

    It’s still Obama’s fault.

    The time machine again?

  15. 15
    alanuk

    I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    I am thankful that I live in a country where I have never even been given the opportunity to refrain from reciting such an oath. Where I am free to use the flag (and even spell in without capitalisation) to wipe my A*** (British spelling).
    -
    I am sure that saying this pledge is merely a sign of insecurity. You got your republic by high treason – warring against your King’s forces and usurping his authority (George Washington of course being guilty of both offences). You got your land largely by force against its inhabitants.
    -
    The pledge itself is a joke. One nation? How many would leave the federation given the chance? It always seems to be ‘The Feds this’ and ‘The Feds that’. Under God? I think originally that was intended as the Pope’s God; perhaps it could mean the segregationists’ god; perhaps Malcolm X’s God; or Ken Ham’s God; or Joseph Smith’s god. Indivisible? You have just said ‘one nation’, obviously you are not very sure of yourselves. Liberty and justice for all? Three strikes? Words fail me; you were saying this when justice was the right to sit on a bus – unless a white person did not have a seat.

  16. 16
    Thorne

    Just curious but, while I agree that they can’t require someone to say the pledge, is there any reason why they cannot require you to stand along with the rest of the class? Could they claim, however disingenuously, that by not standing he was creating a disturbance?

  17. 17
    Modusoperandi

    alanuk “Where I am free to use the flag (and even spell in without capitalisation) to wipe my A*** (British spelling).”
    Now you’re just being ridiculous. I fail to see any reason why an apse would need wiping with a flag. Clean your vaulted recess with a rag like everybody else.

  18. 18
    sigurd jorsalfar

    One baptism is usually enough but the pledge has to be taken every school day? Does it wear off over night?

  19. 19
    eric

    Its looking like this was a one-off issue, not an institutional issue. The kid evidently sits through the pledge every day without the teacher or the students caring – only this time, he had a substitute or it was said in a different class (I’m not sure which). Either way, it was the new/different teacher who got upset, then the administration reflexively backed them.

    So, my guess is that if he complains, the administration will apologize, the teacher in question will be told to let it happen, and that’ll be the end of it.

  20. 20
    dugglebogey

    Ask yourself, did he need to say this took place in Texas? Or did you know already?

  21. 21
    Reginald Selkirk

    eric #19: So, my guess is that if he complains, the administration will apologize…

    Your guess is wrong at stage 2. This went through the pricipal’s office, and the principal is in the wrong. What’s next is someone needs to inform the pricipal about the state of prevailing law; then the pricncipal can admit he was wrong, or get sued.

  22. 22
    zmidponk

    alanuk #15:

    I am thankful that I live in a country where I have never even been given the opportunity to refrain from reciting such an oath. Where I am free to use the flag (and even spell in without capitalisation) to wipe my A*** (British spelling).

    Well, if you wipe your arse with a flag, that’s your business, but, given the material most flags are made of, you’ll find toilet paper is a bit more comfortable. Either way, your arse isn’t important enough to require capitalisation, whether the flag is or isn’t.

    I am sure that saying this pledge is merely a sign of insecurity.

    No, it’s a sign of patriotism, for Americans. You know, like, in the UK, standing up during the playing of that dreary nonsense ‘God Save the Queen’.

    You got your republic by high treason – warring against your King’s forces and usurping his authority (George Washington of course being guilty of both offences).

    Well, that’s technically correct, but it was a response to refusing to allow that particular segment of the British population (as they were at the time) to be represented in Parliament.

    You got your land largely by force against its inhabitants.

    No, actually, at the time, they WERE the inhabitants. They got their own land from us by rebelling against us (I’m British too, in case you haven’t worked that out by now). Of course, they weren’t the original inhabitants, and that land was taken from the original inhabitants – by us, amongst others.

  23. 23
    busterggi

    While I admire the self-restraint of the previous posters please put me in for a Godwin.

  24. 24
    Friendly

    I think originally that was intended as the Pope’s God; perhaps it could mean the segregationists’ god; perhaps Malcolm X’s God; or Ken Ham’s God; or Joseph Smith’s god.

    Given that “under God” was added to the Pledge in 1954 as a way to differentiate ourselves from those supposedly godless Communists, I rather suspect that the deity being referred to is Joe McCarthy’s god.

  25. 25
    pocketnerd

    These days I can’t think of the Pledge of Allegiance without also thinking of the Bellamy salute, which puts a rather sinister spin on the whole thing. (As if compulsory daily recital of a mantra of obedience were not creepy enough…)

  26. 26
    laurentweppe

    That the school administration is so ignorant of this important ruling and of this student’s constitutional rights is appalling.

    Or maybe they’re not ignorant but assuming that they can break the law and browbeat their students into behaving the way they want.

  27. 27
    cptdoom

    My mother was an elementary school teacher in Massachusetts and got in to a huge amount of trouble when she insisted that the Jehovah’s Witness’ in her class stand outside the classroom during the pledge because they wouldn’t recite it – it wasn’t so much that Ma was a huge patriot as much as she really hated the JW religion. She was lucky she didn’t get fired, quite frankly.

    You got your republic by high treason – warring against your King’s forces and usurping his authority (George Washington of course being guilty of both offences). You got your land largely by force against its inhabitants.

    That’s a Poe, right? Because we really don’t want to get into a p*ssing contest about which country stole more land from its inhabitants by force, right? (Yes, Ma was also an Irish Catholic and taught me well about British oppression, and I’ve seen Ghandi)

  28. 28
    D. C. Sessions

    Well, actually as far as “getting (y)our republic” is concerned, there are precious few republics that didn’t get going by way of rebellion or conquest. In fact, I can’t name one.

    As for the kid, what he needs is a good waterboarding. Nothing to inspire a passionate declaration of loyalty than near-drowning.

  29. 29
    Kamaka

    Oh, the high school staff went wild when I pulled this same shit back around 1970, Vietnam and all.

    One sit-through of the pledge, I had a PE teacher pull me out of the auditorium assembly and pin me against a wall. He drew back to punch me*, but refrained when my buddy showed up and yelled “hit him, hit him!”

    * I admit, I was verbally antagonizing him. It wasn’t my first go-round with that asshole.

  30. 30
    Crimson Clupeidae

    D.C. Sessions: Ixnay on the aterboardingnay. It’s baptism. ;-)

  31. 31
    tbp1

    In high school I would stand and recite the Pledge, but leave out the words “under God.” I never got into any trouble, but when I went to my high school reunion last year several people commented to me about it (interestingly everyone was supportive of my right to do so, even if they didn’t agree with me). This was forty years later and most of the people who mentioned it weren’t in my homeroom. Apparently pretty much everyone in the whole damn school (ca. 2400 students) knew about it. I knew I had a bit of a reputation as a nonconformist, but I didn’t know how far it had spread.

  32. 32
    Modusoperandi

    I only said “under God”. And I said it real loud, too. It angered the principal and baffled the heck out of my teachers, too, as we don’t even have to stand for, or say, the Pledge here, on account of this being Canada.

  33. 33
    birgerjohansson

    “One nation under Mithras” might be a cool pledge. But consi€rng the hellenistic culture, some might get homoerotic vibes…

  34. 34
    birgerjohansson

    One nation under Ganesha…would end with a Splat!
    Elephants are heavy.

  35. 35
    matty1

    @15 I want to agree with you but before we get too smug it is worth remembering that daily prayers are still compulsory in British state schools, and they must be Christian unless there is special permission to use another religions prayers.

    That said I don’t know anyone who took the prayers in school assembly seriously, what does disturb me is the extent to which the students in American schools make enthusiastic statements about the pledge. That is just creepy.

  36. 36
    alanuk

    zmidponk #22

    I spell A*** with a capital letter because it is an abbreviation, it has letters missing, that is what the *** is for.

    More serious is the capitalisation of God. A capital initial letter because it is a proper noun. But we are talking about gods here. So I compromised and used both.

    Patriotism? The British abandoned this in the years after WWI. We lost most of Ireland followed by most of our Empire. It became increasingly difficult to even define ‘British’. I suppose there might have been a billion people who would have been British at its peak. Standing to listen to ‘God Save the Queen’? The threat of having to do so was the quickest way to empty a cinema after the last film. The National Anthem is something played at international sporting event to foreigners to rub in the fact that we have just beaten them,

    American patriotism is a funny thing. It seems as if those that are most ‘patriotic’ are those that hate America, in the sense of being a federation with some sort of effective leadership, the most.

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