|Back to October Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 213||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||OCTOBER 2003|
|Texas Requires Pledge in Schools |
The new law, which became effective in September, requires recitation of pledges to both the U.S. and Texas flags, and a moment of silence to pray, meditate, or reflect at the beginning of each school day. Unless their parents submit a written objection, students are required to participate, although there is no penalty for failure to participate. The bill passed easily with little debate.
The Texas law is one of many legislative responses to the decision by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals banning the Pledge of Allegiance on June 26, 2003 because of its words "under God." The U.S. Congress immediately adopted resolutions expressing indignation by votes of 416-3 in the House and 99-0 in the Senate.
After the full Ninth Circuit en banc refused to reconsider this decision, both houses reaffirmed their support for the Pledge as written by votes of 400-7 and 94-0 in March 2003. Seventeen states enacted new laws or amended policies concerning the Pledge in 2002 and 2003.
The Ninth Circuit decision against recitation of the Pledge by children in public schools is currently on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund submitted a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Pledge.
Until the Supreme Court decides the issue, lawsuits challenging the Pledge can be expected in many of the 35 states that mandate its recitation in schools. A federal judge voided a Pennsylvania state law requiring teachers to lead students in reciting the Pledge or singing the national anthem each morning. The fourth stanza of the national anthem includes the words "In God is our trust." In Colorado, a federal judge has issued a temporary injunction against a state Pledge law.
Public opinion has always strongly supported schoolchildren reciting the Pledge. Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis's veto of a state law requiring teachers to lead the Pledge helped elect President George H. W. Bush in 1988.
Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) has 221 co-sponsors for his federal Pledge Protection bill in the House (H.R. 2028), which would withdraw jurisdiction from federal courts to decide cases contesting the Pledge. A companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jim Talent (R-MO).