Resident asks school board to remove Pledge of Allegiance from meetings
December 22, 2009
By Chantelle Lusebrink
The Issaquah School Board may consider eliminating the Pledge of Allegiance at its regular business meetings.
At their Dec. 9 meeting, school board members were asked to eliminate the pledge from their meetings by parent Matthew Barry.
“The words ‘under God’ in the pledge are offensive to your atheist residents in this school district,” Barry said at the meeting. “A study from last year, The American Religious Identification Survey, indicates that 15 percent of Americans aren’t religious. In Washington, which is one of the most nonreligious states, 25 percent aren’t religious. So, I think it is safe to assume there are atheist taxpayers, parents, students and maybe even a few teachers in this school district.”
School board members couldn’t take action or discuss the item since it wasn’t on their regular meeting agenda, but they said they would take the item under consideration for a future agenda topic.
“It is inappropriate for the school board to ask atheists to stand and proclaim they are ‘under God,’” said Barry, a self-proclaimed atheist. “Atheists don’t believe in gods, so they certainly don’t think they or the nation are under a god.”
Barry said other residents with different religious beliefs might also find the pledge offensive.
“If the school board were asking Jews, Hindus and other non-Christians to stand and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the messiah, I’m pretty sure we’d all agree that’s inappropriate,” he said.
“It’s none of the government’s business what our private religious beliefs are, if any, and certainly none of the government’s business to ask us to stand and publicly proclaim what those beliefs are,” he added. “Most would agree it’s even worse if the government asks someone to stand and say something that contradicts their belief system.”
“If I understand his logic correctly, simply because something is offensive and unnecessary, it should be removed,” said Jared Spataro, a parent and Boy Scout Leader whose Scouts presented the colors that night. “I’m very proud to see us stand up and very proud to see my Scouts lead us in the pledge tonight and talk about God.
“We don’t necessarily say that everyone needs to believe in the same God, I think he referenced Jews and Hindus and others, but we do teach our boys, especially in the Scout program, that belief in a higher authority is important as an aspect of our community, and as an aspect of who we become in the community and how we contribute there.”
Barry said he wouldn’t have a problem with board members asking meeting participants to cite the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance, which didn’t include the words “under God” and was recited from 1892-1954. The words “under God” were added in 1954, Barry said.
Right now, schools within the state are required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and hold flag salute exercises at the beginning of each school day under the state’s revised code No. 28A.230.140.
However, the law recognizes that students can’t be forced to participate: “Students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence.”
School districts aren’t required to recite the pledge for school board meetings. In fact, the Lake Washington School District doesn’t require the pledge at board meetings, Barry said.
Since the pledge is irrelevant to the board’s work and is offensive, even if it is voluntary, it should be eliminated from the board meetings, he added.
“I understand many things we do are offensive to people,” Spataro added. “But just because a small group of people, or even a large group of people, are offended it doesn’t mean they are right.”
Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or email@example.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.