Do you believe in pledging allegiance to the flag? Do you believe in doing it because you want to, or because you have to? If some Arizona lawmakers got their way, not everyone would have that choice.
This month, the Arizona House of Representatives voted to require public school students to recite the pledge every morning. The problem is, that’s unconstitutional. The Supreme Court resolved this issue 80 years ago in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. The Court held that requiring public school students to pledge allegiance to the flag violates their First Amendment right against compelled speech.
In stirring language, Justice Robert Jackson said, “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.”
Put simply: the government can’t tell you what to say or think.
The Arizona bill says students can opt out of reciting the pledge with a note from their parents. But that’s not good enough. You don’t need a permission slip to exercise your First Amendment rights.
Compelled speech is contrary to everything America stands for, and Arizona lawmakers won’t persuade students to embrace our country’s principles by violating them.
As the Supreme Court explained, “To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous, instead of a compulsory routine, is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.”
You have the right to refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag—or to any other symbol or ideology. If you feel you’re being compelled to speak, call FIRE. We’re here to help.