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 clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

Bookmark and Share
Other Stories of Interest: ,

Comments

39 Responses to “Resident asks school board to remove Pledge of Allegiance from meetings”

  1. AR on December 22nd, 2009 7:43 pm

    Schools are funded by taxpayer money whether they are religious or atheist.
    many areas of government from conrgess to local municipalities start their meetings with the pledge of allegiance.
    So if we remove the religious from proceedings then we need to remove the athiest. This becomes a point just like the state capitol over the christmas issue of religion against atheist.so then everything becomes neutral and meaningless.Adult children that can’t play well together and accept that were all diffrent with diffrent beliefs.It’s discrimination at best.
    So lets settle the childish adult war and have two presentations of one with “under god” and one “without under god” say two versions to appeal to those who just cant accept one way or the other !problem solved that way no one is offended :)

  2. Glenda Charbonneau on December 22nd, 2009 8:14 pm

    Our Pledge of Allegiance is our heritage and our honor to save for all, not to be dishonored for some.

  3. Tim on December 22nd, 2009 8:14 pm

    I find it quite concerning that “up to 25%” of the nonreligious members of a community can dictate what is appropriate or not appropriate for the remaining 75%. If saying or evening hearing the Pledge is that concerning, then simply sit and keep quite during its recital or enter the meeting room after the Pledge. What’s next? Will the “up to 25%” be offended that the American flag is being displayed. And soon after, will they be offended by some other form of patriotic display. I am pretty certain there are private schools out there that fully support the views and opinions of the “up to 25%”. Maybe it’s time to consider sending your children to an institution that better represents your beliefs and opinions. I wonder how the “up to 25%” deal with the intense pressures of having to utilize currency that boldly states “In God We Trust”.

  4. Hifi on December 22nd, 2009 11:09 pm

    Spataro: “If I understand his logic correctly, simply because something is offensive and unnecessary, it should be removed.”

    Duh!

  5. civil religion sucks on December 23rd, 2009 10:00 am

    Yeah the higher authority we are “under” is government. The pledge is a prayer of praise to the flag and is idolatry. Civil religion is as much an afront to the establishment clause as other religions. Try desecrating a flag or a bible and you’ll quickly see the flag is more sacred for most people.

  6. thehousedog on December 23rd, 2009 11:41 am

    just in time for the holidays – another issaquah debate about god, higher authorities and schools! i am joyfully amused for about 2 minutes. and if the school board decided not to start each meeting with the pledge, perhaps they too would have an extra 2 minutes to do something for the benefit of our children, rather than remind us all that we’re living in the USA. do we have to say a pledge to remind us of that? do we have to start each meeting with a loyalty oath? what times are these?

  7. Fred Goodwin on December 24th, 2009 7:10 am

    Glad to see the Boy Scouts presenting the colors and standing for patriotism!

  8. Cpnahab on December 24th, 2009 12:02 pm

    Dear Atheist.
    It is simple. when the words “Under God” arrive in the pledge, you have the freedom of speech in this country to NOT say the words. You DO NOT however have the freedom of MY SPEECH. Therefore , when the words “Under God” are due to be spoken please feel free to shut up. Stick you fingers in your ears and Hum, whatever.

    Today, the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance is set in the US Code, at 4 USC 4. The text of that section is below.

    The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”, should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. When not in uniform men should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart. Persons in uniform should remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.

    It is the law of the land UNTIL the Supreme Court rules differently. Or the law is changed by Congress.

    Until then Have A Merry Christmas!!!!!

    Cpnahab

  9. David A Beckenbaugh on December 26th, 2009 8:03 pm

    I am offended that someone would be offended by the pledge of allegiance. It is offensive and unnecessary that they are offended. Therefore, under their own principles as stated in the above article, they should be removed.

    By the way, the Supreme Court has repeatedly maintained that you have freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Just thought I might tell you…

    By-the-by, i remember presenting the colors at a school board meeting when I was in junior high… as a member of the boy scouts. Glad to see that is still going on.

    You also might want to know I am writing this while visiting friends in China… where you would be arrested and jailed indefinitely for saying this stupidity… and I would agree with them…

  10. Kalani O'Sullivan on December 27th, 2009 5:12 am

    What I find frightening is how the School Board calmly accepted the words “non-religious” to be equated to “atheist.”

    I am not particularly religious and don’t attend any church, but I do believe there is a God…higher power…supreme being…or whatever you want to name it/him/her. I’m not from this district, but I believe that you educated people on a School Board should be able to tell the difference between a non-religious person who does not belong to a denomination but believes in God and an atheist with no belief in God. Tossing percentages about that are ill-defined is a dangerous thing to base decisions upon.

  11. charles wilkes on December 28th, 2009 1:29 pm

    Matthew Barry is offensive. He’s a rabble rouser. He needs to be put on the Light-Rail and sent over to Fremont where he can frolic with the commies.

  12. Issaquah Resident on December 28th, 2009 6:02 pm

    It’s 100% obvious that we should perform the Pledge as much as we can. To thehousedog: “do we have to say a pledge to remind us [that we are Americans]? do we have to start each meeting with a loyalty oath? what times are these?” These are times that we need to remind ourselves even more that we are Americans and need to stand proud for our country.

    As a high school student myself, I am surrounded by pessimistic young people who complain about how “America sucks,” and how they “hate America.” Really? Have you been to other countries where life is so much “suckier”?

    And why are we allowing the minority to rule the majority. Is not America a democracy where it represents the people and the majority? Hopefully, the School Board is able to discern what’s just.

    I guess this is what our community is coming to – a morally indecisive and pessimistic generation. But as I read these comments, I’m thankful that there still stands some people that understand the value behind the Pledge of Allegiance.

  13. commoncents on December 29th, 2009 5:40 am

    So they MUST “stand and proclaim” under God? Will they be arrested if they don’t?

    Everything atheists do and say offends me…. so can I “move” that they be kicked out of my town?

  14. IP Reader on December 30th, 2009 7:08 am

    Until the pledge is restored to its inclusive pre-1954 verbiage, I would like to see the Issaquah School District remove the pledge from any school activities including board meetings and classroom recitation. The pledge of allegiance is an oath of loyalty to the United States of America, a country. It is NOT an oath of allegiance to any god or religion. The words “under God” were added to the pledge during the McCarthy era when people were freaked out about communism and adding the words “under God” was considered a method to distinguish the US from the “commie-lovers” in Russia. Those two words should never have been added to the pledge.

    A pledge of loyalty to one’s country should be inclusive to everyone living in that country. There are many in the United States who do not believe in the existence of a god. Asking them to acknowledge the existence of a god as a prerequisite to pledging loyalty to their country is highly inappropriate.

  15. Phil on December 30th, 2009 11:06 am

    AR wrote: “So if we remove the religious from proceedings then we need to remove the athiest. . . . so then everything becomes neutral and meaningless.”

    So if we remove the pledge from the school board meeting, then the school board meeting will be “neutral”? How horrible!

    And the meeting will be “meaningless” without the pledge??? I’m sorry, but that makes no sense. Of course the meeting will still be meaningful.

    As noted in the article, the Lake Washington school board doesn’t recite the pledge. And they do just fine. They just get to work. Amazing concept, huh? The ISD school board should give it a try.

  16. Jeff on December 30th, 2009 11:54 am

    I will attend the next school board meeting and shout out “Under God” so that Matthew “I have nothing better to do with my time” Barry can hear me. If it is banned, I and as many friends as I can gather will attend and shout out “Under God” so that Matthew “I don’t really have a life” Barry can hear me.

  17. WinterSquashEm on December 30th, 2009 12:09 pm

    Tim says ——”If saying or evening hearing the Pledge is that concerning, then simply sit and keep quite during its recital or enter the meeting room after the Pledge.”
    ———-
    I have a funny feeling that if the school board asked everyone to get up and say they were “under Allah,” Christians and other non-Muslims in the audience would NOT think it would be an acceptable option to “simply sit and keep quiet.” They would have a fit (and you know it). And rightly so. So why do you think that’s an acceptable option for atheists when hearing a theistic pledge?
    ———-

    Tim says—- “I wonder how the “up to 25%” deal with the intense pressures of having to utilize currency that boldly states “In God We Trust”.”
    ———-
    If there were a racist country (say, like the former South Africa) that had “Whites Rule” on its money, and blacks complained about racism, would you wonder how those blacks deal with the intense pressures of having to utilize their “Whites Rule” currency? No? You’d instead know that a racist motto doesn’t mean they can’t complain about racism? In fact, the racist motto would be even MORE evidence that their complaints were justified?

    Yeah, exactly. Then you now realize how ridiculous your statement about “In God We Trust” is, don’t you.

  18. S. Kawane on December 30th, 2009 12:49 pm

    The school should also consider removing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence from its curriculum too. Silly,

  19. Seabecker on December 30th, 2009 1:36 pm

    My children graduated from Liberty HS in the Issaquah district. I appreciated the fact that the school had an ROTC program and a color guard that used flags and rifles. Our country, our flag, our culture and our freedom was respected.

    Now some idiots want to limit our freedom because they are offended. Well I am offended at their faux offense.

    Rather than canning the Pledge, I would suggest that all students, teachers, administrators and board members be required to memorize the Bill of Rights which clearly gives us freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion.

  20. M. grel on December 30th, 2009 1:43 pm

    Atheists are offensive to me…they should all be removed!

  21. JT on December 30th, 2009 2:46 pm

    Censorship = tolerance.

  22. Iceman on December 30th, 2009 2:50 pm

    This is what our country is founded upon. If you do not like it, get the hell out. We do not want you. There is no one holding you captive to stay in this country. The “pledge” just like the national anthem, our money, etc. needs to stay the same.

  23. Herr Drosselmeyer on December 30th, 2009 2:52 pm

    “Now some idiots want to limit our freedom.” –Seabecker

    Huh?? How on earth would the absence of the pledge from a school board meeting “limit your freedom”? The Lake Washington school board doesn’t recite the pledge. They just get to work. So does their meeting “limit your freedom” somehow? Of course not.

    Besides, as someone pointed out already, you can say the pledge 24/7 to your heart’s content. So stop your childish whining.

  24. Herr Drosselmeyer on December 30th, 2009 2:57 pm

    “The pledge . . . needs to stay the same.” — Iceman

    So, back in 1954, when Congress wanted to change the traditional pledge by adding the words “under God,” would you have said, “NO WAY, the pledge needs to stay the same!!!!”?

  25. Herr Drosselmeyer on December 30th, 2009 2:59 pm

    Issaquah Resident wrote: “And why are we allowing the minority to rule the majority.”

    Majorities determine elections. They don’t determine civil rights. For example, the freedom of speech isn’t decided by majorities. I can say whatever I want, even if 83% of the country would want to stop me from saying it. Likewise, when it comes to the freedom of religion, the majority can’t use the government to push the majority’s religion on the minority, even if 83% of the country wishes it could. That’s why the founding fathers created the separation of church and state.

  26. Ken D on December 30th, 2009 3:22 pm

    Matt Barrry is the by product of a nation that has forgotten were people derive their power and strength. Matt Barry is an offense to God and to those who worship Him. Unfortunately , Matt Barry will get what he wants because most districts have been stripped of any real understanding of constitutional freedoms and have been emasculated beyond recognition. The minute any school bureauacy hears of a law suit they wet their pants and run for the hills. It is a miracle that any of America’s children will survive in a world were so many men cower and so many women want to be men and that the earth has become the object of worship while God the creator is mocked. If history is our guide then it is clear that America is progressing towards a black hole and the Matt Barrys of the world are accelerating our decent.

  27. CougMan on December 30th, 2009 3:49 pm

    The pledge is the pledge; we need not remove or change anything for this guy. If he wants it changed, take it up with Congress or the courts. It’s silly to allow one squeaky wheel to be setting the standards HE finds acceptable for public proceedings. Shall we remove the flag too because he finds it offensive?

  28. Chip on December 30th, 2009 5:00 pm

    Matt Barry has the right not to say the pledge, and he also has the right not to say the words “Under God” if he finds them offensive. Personally, I don’t care what the Matt Barry’s of the world do. There are, and always have been, the people on the sidelines. These are the peripheral people, the ones who can only complain when things don’t go their way. They don’t lead and they don’t like to follow, they simply exist. What idiots like Matt Barry fail to understand (you guess at the reason) is that we exist as a nation becuase our founding fathers had a steady, unwavering and constant belief in God. That he chooses to be offended is fine; let him choose to be offended. I find idiots such as he to be offensive, but I understand someone has to be an ass, else how would others be judged? He plays a role in society, albiet one of a buffoon and a buffoon who takes himself way to seriously. If he finds it offensive, I’m okay with that. I encourage the ISD to leave things as they are and tell Matt Barry it’s okay for him to be offended. He’ll get over it or if not, and if not perhaps find a place where idiots of his ilk can live in peace and harmony and let the rest of us go about our lives.

  29. John on December 30th, 2009 9:13 pm

    So one person out of 20,000 is going to have our pledge removed because they don’t like “under God”. Well, I am offended that I am not being forced to not have pride in my country and my God. Here is an idea, Mr. Aetheist… Don’t say the words “under God” when it comes to that point!

    Don’t like it, move to Russia or China… they’ll love you there!

  30. WALibertarian on December 31st, 2009 9:42 am

    Matthew Barry is one big Fiduciary Bag. His ancestors probably are monkeys.

  31. WinterSquashEm on December 31st, 2009 3:38 pm

    Notice a pattern?

    Those opposed to “under God” in the pledge use rational arguments.

    Meanwhile, comments from those in favor of “under God” are full of childish name-calling: idiot, offense to God, ass, buffoon, monkey, big fiduciary bag (whatever that means). It’s very revealing when all they have are insults. Oh, and of course those ever-so-mature “move to Russia” and “let’s kick them out of my town” comments. My, how “Christian” of you.

  32. Issaquah student on December 31st, 2009 6:00 pm

    To S. Kawane “The school should also consider removing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence from its curriculum too. Silly,”

    You’re kidding right? When I read that, my heart broke. Not only are the Constitution and Declaration of Independence beautiful pieces of literature written by Thomas Jefferson but they are also the grand foundation and symbolic beauty of American history. I’m taking AP American History this year, and we read the whole Declaration of Independence. Yeah, it was long but I am so glad that we do that because I realized how beautiful the creation of America is. Why don’t you read it again and think about why it’s actually important. And do a little research about why America is a great nation. I promise it’ll open your mind to something grand. And silly? No offense man but I think you’re statement is rather silly.

    To Herr Drossylmeyer “You can say the pledge 24/7 to your heart’s content. So stop your childish whining.”

    Yeah you can say the pledge as much as you want, but think realistically. If school were to ever become something optional because some people said it was unnecessary and someone said “you can go to school on your own time to your heart’s content” would the generations after that go to school? No, because there’s no one there to tell them to go and people have lost the value of going to school. So, who’s going to remind the next generation to say the pledge by themselves when ALREADY teens take for granted the value of being an American and living in America? They’re not going to say the pledge if the Board take it out, and soon enough there won’t be anything special about America. The Pledge, the Constiution, the history of America and it’s pride and tradition is what makes it a great nation. What happens if we forget about it? Then we have just become any other bland country that is no longer the land of the free or the home of the brave.

    And childish whining? If anyone here is childish, it is those asking to change the Pledge. “Under God” is not suggesting people to believe in the Christian God. It is simply encouraging unity amongst us so we can all proudly identify ourselves as Americans all together, not necessarily forcing us to be Christians.

    Already, people are asking to rid of the Pledge and rid of the Constitution even when we’re required to perform the Pledge. What’ll happen when the Pledge is gone and all our history is gone? Gosh, I don’t even want to think about it. Please, without being so close-minded, just ponder for a moment about why America is so great. It is through our pride and trust in our country and its history that we are able to strive, but we seem to be losing that…

  33. Paul on January 4th, 2010 10:36 am

    Well, all you religious folks sure have a lot of “Christian tolerance” don’t you:

    “Fiduciary Bag”, er, what? Oh, and yes, his ancestors were monkeys, well, apes, and so were yours.

    “Matthew Barry is offensive. He’s a rabble rouser. He needs to be put on the Light-Rail and sent over to Fremont where he can frolic with the commies” I know, isn’t freedom of speech an annoying thing. Great solution, though, put those silly atheists and commies in a ghetto, yeah, that worked well for Hitler.

    “Now some idiots want to limit our freedom”, jeesh!

    “Matt Barry is an offense to God and to those who worship Him”, really? Why? Is your god really such a douche that he would be “offended” by someone not believing in him? Surely he could just ignore them and they’ll go to that “other place”? Oh, that’s right, Hell is just something the church invented – it’s not actually in the Bible, is it? It’s heaven or nothing, which still sounds like little grounds for offense.

    And my favourite:
    “What idiots like Matt Barry fail to understand (you guess at the reason) is that we exist as a nation becuase our founding fathers had a steady, unwavering and constant belief in God. ” – Chip

    What ignorant blowhards like Chip fail to realize is that many the founding fathers were demonstrably non-christian at best, and in some cases atheist, (see http://jeromekahn123.tripod.com/thinkersonreligion/id9.html, or http://www.atheists.org/law/founding_fathers for some analyses – there are many others). Chip may be thinking of the Pilgrims, but they weren’t the founding fathers now, were they?

    Get your facts straight. There are, and always have been, a great number of non-believers and atheists in this country, and their numbers are growing all the time. It comes down to Occams razor. God is unnecessary in order to live a good life, or to explain the origins of the natural world, so it must be discarded as an explanation until reasonable grounds can be found to support it’s existence. I’ve yet to see any reasonable grounds.

  34. annie on January 4th, 2010 8:03 pm

    I would be MORE than willing to help purchase a one-way ticket for Matthew Barry to the first atheist country that can be found to ship him to. How un-American to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from public meetings.

  35. WinterSquashEm on January 4th, 2010 8:29 pm

    Issaquah student wrote: “They’re not going to say the pledge if the Board take it out, and soon enough there won’t be anything special about America.”

    The words “under God” weren’t in the pledge before 1954. Are you saying there was nothing special about America before 1954?

    In fact, there was NO PLEDGE at all before 1892. Are you saying there was nothing special about America before 1892?

    Don’t be silly, ok?

  36. Local Student on January 4th, 2010 8:30 pm

    Spataro said “If I understand his logic correctly, simply because something is offensive and unnecessary, it should be removed.”

    Well shouldn’t it? If it’s unnecessary, why keep it?

  37. Local Student on January 4th, 2010 9:21 pm

    Seabeck, I suggest you read this article, which clearly explains, quoting the Constitution itself, as to why Freedom OF religion MUST encompass freedom from religion to not contradict itself.:

    http://atheism.about.com/od/churchstatemyths/a/freedomfrom.htm

  38. John on January 14th, 2010 10:24 pm

    A person reciting the Pledge is pledging their loyalty to our Nation, not to a God. In reciting the Pledge, an atheist (and everybody else that recites it) is proclaimning their loyalty to the US. The Pledge does not require an atheist or anyone else to “stand and proclaim they are under God” or to stand and publicly proclaim what their beliefs are. It is referring to the US; it states that the US is “one Nation under God” ~ meaning that this Nation was founded on fundamental principles that are found in most religions. It does not even imply a specific religion; only a general reference to God.

    Non-believers or folks that believe in some other form of ‘higher being’ are not being asked to believe in one particular God. The wording is recognition of the fact that this Nation was founded on certain religious principles.

    One does not have to believe in those religious principles to appreciate the vast array of freedoms that are provided for under our form of government. A person should not be offended by this reference, but rather thankful for the influence these principles had on the basic formation of our government. Remember that government put in place to serve the people who were to be governed was a revolutionary idea back then. The fact that it is similar to the radical model of leadership that Christ demonstrated while he was on earth is not a coincidence.

  39. J.A. on January 15th, 2010 12:03 pm

    “… with liberty and justice for all. (… as long as you believe what I believe.)” The hypocrisy of many of the comments is truly astounding.

    The pledge of alliegence is for our nation regardless of your belief in a higher power. Religion has no place in govt nor does is determine your loyalty to our Nation.

    Former Marine, Current Atheist.

Got something to say?

Before you comment, please note:

  • These comments are moderated.
  • Comments should be relevant to the topic at hand and contribute to its discussion.
  • Personal attacks and/or excessive profanity will not be tolerated and such comments will not be approved.
  • This is not your personal chat room or forum, so please stay on topic.