(Tallahassee, FL, Aug. 25, 2016)—The American Humanist Association urges the Leon County School District in Tallahassee, Florida, to continue providing elementary students with forms allowing them to opt out of participating in the Pledge of Allegiance, rather than withdrawing them in response to complaints by conservative commentators.
In a letter sent to Leon County School District Superintendent Jackie Pons, the American Humanist Association commended the school district for educating students and parents about students’ constitutional right to not participate in the Pledge exercise. The school district gained national attention this week after an uncle of a student in the district criticized the Pledge waiver forms in a viral Facebook post. The post contained a picture of the form filled out with the words: “This is the dumbest thing I have ever read and I am so ashamed of this.” In response to criticism, the school district has withdrawn the form.
“Instead of caving to those who would keep students ignorant of their rights, the school district should stand firm to uphold students’ freedom of speech,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
“Many parents don’t know that students have long had the right to refrain from participating in the Pledge of Allegiance,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, in reference to the 1943 US Supreme Court ruling on the case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett. “By providing a waiver, the school district emphasized that reciting the Pledge is voluntary and made it simpler for parents to exempt their children from it.”
The American Humanist Association is currently leading a national boycott of the Pledge of Allegiance to raise awareness about the discriminatory nature of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge, which mischaracterizes humanists, atheists and other nontheists as less patriotic. On its Pledge boycott website, the American Humanist Association explains that the phrase was not originally part of the Pledge wording but was added in 1954 during the McCarthy Era, and the American Humanist Association calls for the Pledge of Allegiance to be restored to its original wording.
A copy of the American Humanist Association’s letter to the school district can be viewed here.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
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