Why some students choose not to stand for The Pledge

Students have the First Amendment right to stand or sit for the Pledge of Allegiance (Graphic by Abbigayle Gabli).

Students have the First Amendment right to stand or sit for the Pledge of Allegiance (Graphic by Abbigayle Gabli).

Abbigayle Gabli, Arts & Entertainment Editor, Opinion Editor

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”, we’ve all known this robotic set of words since elementary school.

The Pledge of Allegiance has been around since 1892, created to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” of North America. It was initially created to be recited on Columbus Day and stated, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands—one Nation indivisible—with liberty and justice for all.”

As children of the United States of America, we are taught to stand up, face the flag, put our right hand over our hearts and recite the words of The Pledge every school morning.

In the case West Virginia State Board v. Barnette 1943 the argument was made that The Pledge of Allegiance violated the free speech clause.

The court reached a 6-3 decision delivered by Justice Jackson, agreeing that it is unconstitutional for public schools to force students to say The Pledge of Allegiance.

Since this freedom has been protected, many other arguments have been against The Pledge of Allegiance, one being with the phrase “under God.” Many have fought for this verse to be eradicated from The Pledge of Allegiance, as they see it as an infringement of their First Amendment rights.

The Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution makes it illegal for the government to promote a particular religion. A three-part test was created, called the “Lemon” Test, to govern the Establishment Clause.

This topic hits close to home for some Milford High School students, including Senior Allie Mobey. “The Pledge states ‘one nation [under] God’ and I don’t think that’s fair to me, who doesn’t believe in God, and those who believe in a different God or multiple,” she said.

Effective in the 2013-2014 school year, every public school in Michigan was mandated to devote a certain period each day for students to have the opportunity to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. This is why at Milford High School, The Pledge is recited by students after the second hour each day.

The courts have stated that it is not a violation of one’s rights to provide time for The Pledge in schools, but the recitation of The Pledge is always voluntary. For many people, like Mobey, this is the main factor for why they choose not to stand for the Pledge.

Many see The Pledge as a means to show respect for our country, including Piper Girardi, a sophomore at Milford.

“I stand because I think of it as a way to honor our country and the people who fought in wars for us,” said Girardi ,who went on to say that it’s an “automatic” action to stand for The Pledge because she has done so since kindergarten.

Senior Ally Wilmot, who alternates from standing to sitting for The Pledge, said, “I understand showing respect in one’s country, but how does reciting the same ‘pledge’ over and over again daily do anything?”

Wilmot goes further to say that in the workforce, you don’t stand for The Pledge, so the significance in public schools doesn’t make much sense.

For many, like Girardi, standing for The Pledge means respecting the ones who died for the flag and our freedoms.

However, it’s important to remember that students who sit during The Pledge of Allegiance have just as much right to do so, and are actually using their First Amendment rights to protest.

Many students have a hard time pledging allegiance to a nation that is still discriminating against people of color, women, and people part of the LGBTQIA+ community. There are still major problems with how justice treats citizens based on these factors and on who has the power to change laws.

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, black citizens make up about 13.6% of the United States population. However, 53% of the 3,200 individuals who were exonerated from being charged for a crime they did not commit were black as of 2022.

From the statistics, the National Registry of Exonerations was able to say black individuals were seven times more likely than white individuals to be wrongfully accused of a crime. There are still major gender issues as well.

Females make up 51% of the United States population, according to Represent Women. In the United States Federal Government in 2022, only 24% of the Senate is female and only 28.3% make up the House of Representatives.

In Congress, female representation is only 27.5%, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. Underrepresentation is still a significant issue for females in the United States. Males are making landmark decisions for women without the correct representation. For example, the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 left the right of abortion in the hands of the state government.

Finally, it’s 2022 and there still are 27 states in the US not protecting the rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals. According to Freedom for all Americans, in states like Florida, Texas, Ohio, etc., there is no law protecting sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or public accommodations.

Is it okay for LGBTQIA+ individuals to have to avoid states because of their safety for just expressing their true selves? The answer is automatically no. When a whole group of people aren’t being treated as equals, it can be hard to stand for The Pledge that represents the country where this injustice thrives.

“No minority has had full liberty or justice,” said Megan Hotchkiss, a senior at Milford, “The only people who have gotten their full rights are white, heterosexual, cisgender, financially stable men.”

When explaining why someone might sit for The Pledge, it’s natural for passions to arise. It is extremely difficult to communicate with others on different sides of the political spectrum because of the intense emotions surrounding politics.

“We grow further away from each other every passing moment…we have never been united and speaking to a flag won’t change that,”  Hotchkiss said.

Students who decide to invoke their First Amendment rights are asking that others respect that decision.

Mobey said, “I do sometimes feel pressured to stand because people judge me for sitting and even call me names repeatedly.” Wilmot agreed, saying, “I always feel like I’ll be judged if I don’t stand for The Pledge.” Girardi also said, “I…feel pressured by my peers…if I don’t [stand] then everyone would silently be judging me.”

As one is looking around the classroom and mumbling the words, or stating them proudly, think about reasons peers sit in protest rather than judging them for not standing for The Pledge of Allegiance.

Summarized nicely by Hotchkiss: “There is a big difference in mindlessly mumbling something about being united and actually getting up and doing something about it.”