Colin Kaepernick, Arian Foster and others kneel during National Anthem.

Should kids be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?

Should kids be forced to stand for the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance?

According to a law in Florida, where I am a resident, yes.

Here it is.

Each district school board may adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district, programs of a patriotic nature to encourage greater respect for the government of the United States and its national anthem and flag, subject always to other existing pertinent laws of the United States or of the state. When the national anthem is played, students and all civilians shall stand at attention, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes.

The law smacks of a McCarthy-era loyalty pledge, which is problematic enough.

And, in fact, in one Florida locale, they are enforcing that law.

Florida’s Orange County Public Schools announced this week that their students must have parental permission if they want to kneel during the national anthem at football games.

Why? Because some students in a Florida district knelt in solidarity with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s protest against social injustice in America.

It's complicated.

First, patriotism. I am totally in favor of patriotism. I consider myself to be a patriotic American. I definitely support demonstrations of patriotism towards my country. Yes, despite all of its flaws (where did we ever learn that a nation's flaws exempt its citizens from showing national pride?)

Second, symbolic gestures. I am totally in favor of symbolic gestures. Religion is filled with them.

This weekend, when our religious school kids rose and sang the Sh'ma, the Jewish affirmation of the unity of God, I did not ask how many kids actually believe in that rather sophisticated theological idea.

We just sang it.

Truth is: I want them to believe it, though I know that I cannot force it.

And the other truth is: symbolically celebrating a belief and affirming it -- actually strengthens that belief. It creates a habit of mind and of action.

But -- should the state force our young people to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance?

Should we be compelling our young people to bring a note from home, giving them permission not to do so?

And this is the part where those conservative friends will probably stop smiling.

My answer: No.

I find it fascinating that this discussion arises during the week in the Jewish calendar when we read the account of the rebellious son, in the book of Deuteronomy.

If a man has a wayward and defiant son, who does not heed his father or mother and does not obey them even after they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the public place of his community. They shall say to the elders of his town, “This son of ours is disloyal and defiant; he does not heed us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” Thereupon the men of his town shall stone him to death. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst: all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Relax: as even the ancient sages said, it never happened. The text serves as some kind of object lesson -- a cautionary tale, if you will -- or parental fantasy writ large in holy writ.

Even though kids should learn some kind of impulse control.

But, why were rebellious kids never really punished?

Perhaps this is why.

Judaism was born when Abraham rebelled against his father, and broke his idols. (Don't bother looking for it in the Bible; it's a legend.)

The Jewish people was sustained when Pharaoh’s daughter rebelled against her father, and saved the infant Moses.

Gluttony and drunkenness, as the text proscribes: not a good idea.

But a certain kind of spiritual rebellion: why not?

That brings us back to our kids who want to imitate Colin Kaepernick?

Should they have to bring a note from their parents in order to kneel during the Pledge of Allegiance?

Absolutely not.

Here is why.

Judaism believes that young people achieve moral majority when they were thirteen years old. That is why they become bar or bat mitzvah at that age.

That means that we believe that young people are old enough to begin to grapple with these issues for themselves. They should not need Mommy or Daddy's signature on a note in order to wrestle, even and especially publicly, with those issues of patriotism and devotion.

At the very least, we should welcome our young people thinking for themselves -- even if we don't agree with them. We should engage them in conversation. We should challenge them, and let them challenge us.

I say this, both as a parent and as an educator.

We need to give our kids space to figure this stuff out for themselves.

In the words of the Indian Jewish poet, Nissim Ezekiel:

Protect my children from my secret wish to make them over in my image and illusions. Let them move to the music that they love, dissonant perhaps to me.

A little bit of healthy rebellion never hurt anyone.

If anything, let's be proud that our kids -- are actually thinking.


  1. “According to a law in Florida, where I am a resident, yes.”

    Actually NO. It doesn’t matter what your STATE says, because the Supreme Court has, historically AND repeatedly, upheld your right to not observe those things. The law of the country trumps the law of the state.

    The Supreme Court has repeatedly found that a student does not have to observe the flag-idolatry that public schools would otherwise like to force on students. It doesn’t matter what the state of Florida says on the subject.

    “I am totally in favor of patriotism.”

    Patriotism and nationalism are sinful, terrible ideas. One that seeks to divide humanity and our caring of one another based on borders and states. It’s patriotism that creates the mindset behind government initiatives to force students into such nationalistic rituals. You oppose the symptom but support the cause of the malady. This, ultimately, will get you nowhere.

  2. “Actually NO. It doesn’t matter what your STATE says, because the Supreme
    Court has, historically AND repeatedly, upheld your right to not
    observe those things. The law of the country trumps the law of the

    True, but it requires bringing the law before the court system before it gets taken off the books.

  3. 7 states still have unconstitutional laws on the books that forbid atheists from public office, and they aren’t going away any time in the foreseeable future.

  4. Rabbi Salkin is not always wrong, but this time he’s totally wrong.
    The Pledge of Allegiance represents a priceless, precious, shared COMMITMENT. A nationwide commitment to shared freedoms, ideals, community values, and quality of life for all people of all flavors. YOU, the reader, are directly benefitting right now from it. Salkin too. Me too.

    You (and your kids!) are benefitting from what other Americans died for. You are all benefitting from what policemen and policewomen are DYING EVERY SINGLE WEEK to preserve on your behalf.

    Hey people, there ARE places where Rabbi Salkin’s Judaism is totally unwelcome. There’s places where my Christianity is totally unwelcome. There are places overseas where YOU won’t want to be, if you get caught posting the wrong opinions on a religion discussion board. No freedoms over there.

    So yeah, if a kid don’t wanna stand up for the Pledge, that kid BETTER bring a good note from a parent or guardian. The Jehovah’s Witnesses write legitimate notes all the time, because of their religion’s tenets. That’s fine, no problem. But otherwise, these hard-headed kids better stand their fannies up.

    Either that, or find a country that works better for them and their parents. Deport yourselves NOW !!

  5. From an atheist’s standpoint, why should a person (adult or child) be forced to stand and recite a pledge for “one nation under god”? This is McCarthyism at its finest. At the very least, we should remove the “under god” part as it originally was pre-1954. I think it sounds better too.

    One nation. Indivisible. With liberty and justice for all.

  6. Every soldier is different, but most of those I’ve talked to say they fought for the right to stand or sit. The Constition is what make this country what it is, and it guarantees every citizen’s right not to swear an oath he chooses not to. Children are no exception. If “benefitting” from the efforts of those you list means giving up the right to dissent, we might as well just cancel the Constitution and form a dictatorship.

  7. Utter blasphemy!!

    Allegiance belongs to God alone. I will not swear it to your IDOL, even if that idol is a flag, and even if the idol represents good ideals!! And while I respect your rights to worship that idol if you so choose, I will NOT stand for you mandating children to do so!! Such decisions to worship or pledge your allegiance to an inanimate object should not be encouraged by the state or pushed on KIDS in schools!!

  8. “True, but it requires bringing the law before the court system before it gets taken off the books.”

    True, but when one attempts to enforce it it will be easily removed.

  9. “Should kids be forced to stand for the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance?”

    In my opinion, no.

    Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I will react if Trump is elected president, and I’m leaning toward not standing for the anthem or the Pledge while he is president. I cannot respect a country that would elect Trump as its president.

  10. Well there it is, the most un-American thing I’ve read all month. Your my-way-or-the-highway attitude has more in common with those places overseas you mention than the values this country is founded on.

  11. Everyone knows that they best way to make someone patriotic is to force them to say a loyalty oath from a young age when they don’t understand half of the words they are saying.

  12. Funny how autocratic nations make it a regular policy to force people to recite national pledges and engage in patriotic expression. Yet you are under the mistaken impression that a free nation must follow suit. Seriously there is no difference between your view and what they do in North Korea to honor their dear leader. The leader thousands of their soldiers died to keep in power.

    “You are all benefitting from what policemen and policewomen are DYING EVERY SINGLE WEEK to preserve on your behalf.”

    Unless they are young and of color. Then they aren’t doing much on their behalf as much as using them for target practice.

    “There are places overseas where YOU won’t want to be, if you get caught posting the wrong opinions on a religion discussion board. No freedoms over there.”

    And yet you want to punish people for expressing the wrong opinion about the nation.

  13. Your answer is interesting, because you start by asking a good question and (in your last sentence) you begin to give a very good answer to your own question.

    On another site (a “Yahoo Answers” board), there’s a guy by the moniker of “Gus K” who, during a different discussion of the Pledge, offered this simple but profound answer:

    ****It means we each, as individuals of many different races religions beliefs and philosophies, in the final analysis pledge our loyalty to a greater principle: our citizenship, our United States of America.****

    And there you go, Timlach. Not one micron of McCarthyism there, you’ll agree. YOUR question is answered perfectly. Sure, the Pledge can’t be made into a law (and notice I called only for parental notes so that Mom and Dad can get in on the situation, and I only called for SELF-deportation for the hard-headed boo-boo folks). But for certain there now exists a desperate need to teach all those Pledge principles (including your last sentence!!) in public school, just like the need to teach reading-writing-math to kids.

    So please re-read your post, and see for yourself that it is now answered.

  14. I could be wrong, but my sight-unseen guess is that NONE of the soldiers you spoke with, have ever sat down and refused to say the Pledge as a protest tactic. My guess is they have said the Pledge almost every time, and they know what every word of it means, for they risked their very lives for those words.

    The Pledge is not a mandatory law, but it gives vital citizenship principles (please see my response to Timlach) that your soldier friends considered important enough to die for. Today’s kids need to be flat-out taught WHAT those principles are and WHAT they mean, and then they seriously need to be seriously taught to put their OWN hands on the Pledge every time, via **reciting** the Pledge (if Mom and Dad and Auntie have no objections to doing so, that’s what the parental notes are for, if need be.)

    This is as important as teaching reading, writing, math, and science. Even Congress opens with the Pledge.

    And as I said to Timlach, I only called for SELF-deportation for the hard-headed boo-boo folks who try to play a Colin Kaepernick game. I don’t oppose the right to dissent — but even THAT is just another benefit that somebody’s getting from the Pledge!!

  15. I think you are missing my point about the “one nation UNDER GOD” part. I don’t believe in a god. If I had kids, I would let them decide on their own, based on their own sound logic and reasoning. Children should not need a note from a parent to not recite a pledge of allegiance to one nation under god. The courts have said as such.
    My McCarthyism statement is that in the anti-communist fervor going through the country at the time, “under god” was added to the pledge to expose “godless communists.” There isn’t and there shouldn’t be any ‘religious test’ to be a good, proud, and upstanding citizen of this country of ours. Removing the “under god” part of the pledge ensures that we follow the First Amendment correctly.

  16. You would probably be one of the parents who, just like the Jehovah Witnesses, have theological reasons for not reciting the Pledge. (In your specific case, you said “I don’t believe in a god.”)

    But like I said, that’s okay. Just send a note or email to the kid’s teacher. Doing so indicates that you, the parent, are (1) aware of what the Pledge says, (2) aware of your own values/ethics/beliefs that you are seriously trying to communicate to your child, and (3) therefore, in the event of a refusal to do the Pledge, you aren’t just allowing your kid to mindlessly play a copycat Colin Kaepernick game.

    In the schoolhouse, there are necessarily LIMITS to a kid’s “right to dissent”, just like there’s similar limits to the kid’s “right to dissent” within your own house. Especially when busy teachers are trying to teach kids the same vital citizenship values in which you and I function everyday. So a parental note helps, NOT hurts.

  17. Just send a note or an email to your kids’ teacher, (“No disrespect but for personal / religious reasons, I request my child to sit out the Pledge, sincere thanks.”) That’s all you have to do.

    Simply hit the “print” or “send” button, and the “idol” issue is resolved for ever and ever. (Amen!)

  18. By having the null option being a pledge to one nation under god, the government is supporting an establishment of religion (religion over no religion and monotheism over polytheism and atheism, etc.), which is clearly PROHIBITED by the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United State of America. The null option, as required by the Constitution, of the government must be secular in nature.

  19. When are y’all gonna learn to not argue with or disagree with floydlee? Don’t you know he’s right about everything? Religious fundamentalism makes it’s followers think they’re infallible on all matters. Get with the program Keith, Nathan, Spuddie, et al.

  20. Hey, you’re totally welcome to offer a considered and intelligent response, just like Keith and Timlach did.

    Are you up for it, Tuesday? Hmm?

  21. There’s nothing more ironic than people who claim to be “patriotic” and “defenders of freedom” demanding that people submit to a loyalty oath or face consequences.

  22. You’re still encouraging sin for children. Why should cloth bear a man’s allegiance??

  23. Should kids be forced to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? Of course not, and any effort to enforce it would be unconstitutional, particularly since they inserted the “Under God” phrase into it in 1954. You cannot enforce allegiance or prayer.

  24. USMC 83 – 87 and I sit out the pledge every time. I will never say the pledge or stand for it as long as ‘under god’ is in it and there is not equal justice for all. The pledge is a lie. I stand for the anthem but I also support anyone who chooses not to for any reason. I served to protect our right to protest.

  25. Your constitutional rights don’t start when you are 18. You are born with them as a US citizen. Nobody can take them away, including your parents. The courts have made it very clear you do not need permission from your parents or anyone else to exercise your right to sit out the pledge. Nobody can legally require anyone no matter what age to do anything during the pledge or national anthem. The only exception is if you are in the military because you give up your constitutional rights when you join.

  26. “including your silly idol named god”

    Yes. Duh. What the hell made you think I would disagree with that?? Children shouldn’t be forced to swear allegiance to anything in schools. This is obvious fact, regardless of the silliness of the object of allegiance.

    But no one’s forcing kids in schools to swear allegiance to my God.

    On the other hand, plenty of kids out there are being pushed to swear allegiance to a piece of colored fabric.

    Let’s focus on the silly forced allegiances that are ACTUALLY HAPPENING rather than worry about ones that aren’t happening and no one is calling for, eh??

  27. Perhaps, but having it on state books or not has no bearing on the fact that it can’t be enforced. 1st Circuit Court ruled it unconstitutional six years ago. Federal rulings don’t wait for state legislatures to get around to it.

  28. If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem then move to another country. You may have the right to not do it but don’t expect people to support you or defend YOU when you need it.

  29. Everyone seems to forget (or ignore) the reasons people founded this great nation. It DID involve GOD and a principle of allegiance. You are spitting on everyone who serves in the military or died for this country and it’s despicable. Move!

  30. I didn’t say the PLEDGE involved God, I said “the reasons people founded this great nation…” did. Read the Declaration of Independence…He’s in there.

  31. “demanding that people submit to a loyalty oath or face consequences.”

    Not necessary, just do not expect the benefits paid for by others in a country so hated.

  32. Even if those who “hate” the country pay into the same benefits the “others” pay?

  33. Actually, the very law cited in this article gives the “out” that is required by the Supreme Court…that is…the Florida law is where the school districts get the idea that parents need to give written permission for their children to abstain from standing.

    “Each student shall be informed by a written notice published in the student handbook or a similar publication pursuant to s. 1006.07(2) that the student has the right not to participate in reciting the pledge. Upon written request by his or her parent, the student must be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart.”

    I believe that children starting in middle school should be able to make this decision themselves.

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