New Missouri state law requires daily pledge in public schools
Law affecting schools intends to unite country, encourage patriotism
For generations, students have been standing up, placing their right hands over their heart and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school, and with the passage of House Bill 1750, it is now law to recite the patriotic ritual once per day in all Missouri schools that receive public funding.
For many Barry County schools, the law does not constitute any major changes, as it is already recited each day, such as in the Exeter and Cassville school districts.
"We recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag every day from K-12," said Ernest Raney, Exeter school district superintendent. "We also state, 'One Nation Under God.'"
Cassville lower-grade school buildings also currently recite the pledge each day.
"Cassville elementary and intermediate have, for as long as I can remember, said the Pledge of Allegiance every day as part of the morning start up-events," said Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent. "The middle and high schools had not performed the pledge each day, as they had very different schedules and start-up events, however, all our buildings say the pledge each day now."
So why the new requirement, some may ask?
Raney's belief is that legally requiring the pledge be recited each day in school reemphasizes the importance of teaching young people to take time to show reverence to the symbol of our freedom, the U.S. Flag.
"As Americans and as educators, we are proud and honored to facilitate this time for our students every day," he said.
"In my opinion, the bill intended to promote and reestablish a patriotic theme and appreciation for the American Flag, and patriotic events in our public schools," he said. "I believe that the requirement is quite appropriate for the freedoms that we have and enjoy each day in our public education system and as Americans."
Missouri lawmakers said it is important for the tradition to continue.
"I think the reasoning behind the law was that some schools not around our area may not have elected not to say the pledge, and so we felt it was important that students grow up knowing and reciting it in school," said State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob.
"When I was in grade school, I remember saying it every day," said State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, who added that under the previous law, schools were only required to recite the pledge once per week.
Sater said he also believes students should be including the phrase, "under God," which was added in by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954 in response to the threat of Communism at the time.
The actual reasoning for the new law stemmed from four high school students at Northwest High School in Cedar Hill, who questioned why the ritual wasn't being recited each day. The students contacted their State Rep., Shane Roden, R-Jefferson City, who introduced the bill during the 2015 and 2016 sessions.
Cynthia Holmes, president of the St. Louis chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, argue the Pledge takes time away from other education.
"I think it's silly and unnecessary," she said. "It's wasting precious resources and two to three minutes each day that could be used to teach something worthwhile. It's not going to make students any more patriotic or religious. You can't tie repetition to a civics lesson."
Still others believe it would be best for students to have discussions about the meaning behind the Pledge versus routinely reciting it.
"I do believe reciting the pledge should be tied into further understanding of why we do it," Roden said. "There's a lack of understanding of where the pledge even came from and its original purpose. It was written in the 1890s as a way to unify our country after the Civil War. There was a great divide and it was a way to be united again.
"For me, it's also tied to the events in Ferguson and what is going on elsewhere in the country. Our country is so divided and we need to be united under something. That's the purpose of the Pledge of Allegiance, to unite us as one country."
Ironically, the last line in the bill states, "No student shall be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance."
"There are a few occasions where a religious belief prevents or allows a student to choose not to participate," Asbill said.
"Our country was founded on Judeo-Christain values, and even though there are some who would disagree with me, I'm proud of it, and I think our nation is a great nation because of those principles of Judeo-Christian heritage," Sater said. "We live in the U.S., this is our country, we should be proud of it, and there's no reason we can't say the Pledge of Allegiance every day."