Taking a Stand for Sitting Down

Brendan Gibson and Luciana Benzan

Despite recent debate, students at SJHHS and across the country should not be condemned for expressing their religious or social views by boycotting the Pledge of Allegiance.

In 1943 the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette that students have the right to sit down during the Pledge of Allegiance, but 73 years later students are still being labeled as disrespectful and unpatriotic if they choose not to participate.

“It goes against the ideals it tries to build”

— Zachary Binowitz

Students sit down for the pledge for many reasons, especially to call attention to current social issues or to exercise their freedom of religion.

Junior Zachary Binowitz sits down during the Pledge of Allegiance because he does not support the addition of the phrase “under God,” which contradicts his own religious beliefs and the beliefs of other polytheists or atheists.

Many people believe that the phrase “under God,” added in 1954, is not discriminatory because of the false assumption that our founding fathers based this country on Christianity, and; therefore, students should show respect by standing even if they practice a different religion.

However, in 1797, founding father John Adams wrote in the Treaty of Tripoli, “the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” The treaty was unanimously ratified.

Also, the Pledge was not written by the founding fathers, a common misconception; it wasn’t even written for the United States. The original Pledge was written in 1892 by socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, and was as follows: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

It was meant to be used by any nation to simply honor the flag and what it represents.

It wasn’t until 1954 that today’s controversial phrase “under God” was added by President Eisenhower in response to communist pressure.

“It goes against the separation of church and state,” Binowitz said. “It goes against the ideals it tries to build.”

Binowitz recalled that during his sophomore year, a teacher asked to talk to him in the hall after his boycott of the pledge, then proceeded to scold him for being unpatriotic and rude.

Across the country, other students have been physically pulled out of their chairs by teachers or had their grades lowered for refusing to stand for the pledge.

America never was and never will be a Christian country, so students have a valid argument for sitting down if they feel their religion has been marginalized by a society which promises not to adhere to to a single religion.

Furthermore, we live in a nation of immigrants that have help shape the United States to what it is today. At SJHHS, we have many students who come from all over the world, like Riley Goodfellow, who spent most of her childhood in Peru and considers herself Peruvian.

Goodfellow doesn’t stand for the pledge because “It’s not my flag. I don’t have the same relationship with the flag that someone growing up in the US might have.”

With a diverse campus such as ours, students should not be disparaged for where they come from.

Additionally, many argue that boycotting the Pledge of Allegiance is disrespectful to troops who risk their lives fighting overseas.

Military members promise upon enlisting not to uphold the flag or the Pledge of Allegiance, but rather to uphold the US Constitution.

Many brave men and women have fought to protect the rights of students who choose to exercise their beliefs freely, and they did not risk their lives to force people to either stand up or be shamed.

They proudly serve their country to uphold principles they believe are important, including the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion, and it is not disrespectful to the troops to exercise these rights.

In this democratic country, it is important that people have different opinions and debate social issues, but it is not patriotic to ridicule someone when their view disagrees with your own.