RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (HB 3604) (2011)

Currently, school districts are required to provide their students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a week. HB 3604 was introduced to expand the current requirement by allowing for daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. The ACLU opposed HB 3604. We think the fatal flaw with the current law, ORS 339.875, is that it sets forth not only the requirement that public schools provide students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance on a weekly basis, but that it requires the “One Nation under God” version in the state law.

It was only in 1954, in the midst of the McCarthy era “Red Scare” that Congress added “Under God.” The hallmark of the McCarthy era was that it pressured people to conform in politics, religion, speech and belief. The prevailing assumption was that all good (non-communist) Americans believed in a monotheistic God. This assumption was as untrue in the 1950s as it is today.

If the goal of this law is to promote patriotism, then we should choose a non-religious expression of patriotism, such as the pre-1954 pledge. Choosing to include the words “under God” indicates that the real purpose of this law is religious, not patriotic. While the current law allows a child who does not want to recite the Pledge to not participate and “maintain a respectful silence during the salute,” we remain concerned about the application of this law in schoolrooms. Too often, children who do not want to participate feel pressure to conform. Some schools have confused the “respectful silence” requirement with a requirement that non-participating students must stand, which is a means of participation not required under Oregon law. The ACLU testified against HB 3604 when it was heard in the House Rules Committee. It had only one hearing and died in Committee.

WIN: DIED IN COMMITTTEE