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article imageOp-Ed: Loyalty oaths and censorship are not principles of freedom

By Rob Lafferty     Feb 19, 2013 in Politics
Eugene - Two Arizona lawmakers have introduced two different proposed laws that might come to a vote this year. Both laws would require students in public and charter schools to stand, face an American flag and recite a standard pledge of allegiance every day.
Both measures are clearly unconstitutional, for they violate the First Amendment and probably the Ninth and Tenth as well.
Students with parental consent could decline to participate, which makes both laws rather pointless. Also, private school students would not be subject to those laws, which make them discriminatory as well. But that didn’t stop them from being brought forward to waste time, energy and money in the state legislature.
Those two attempts to compel students to behave under the eyes of the Arizona government are joined by an attempt last year to censor teachers and professors by eliminating their free speech rights. That law called for the suspension of any public school teacher who “…engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity.” Private schools and colleges again are exempt from the law, which would use the vague and subjective standards of network television broadcasts to determine what educators can say in public, anywhere, anytime. It hasn’t come up for a vote yet, but it’s still alive at the committee level.
There’s some irony behind those three attempts to change the law of the land – they were proposed by representatives who campaigned against Big Government interfering with people’s lives. It would seem that, in their eyes, forcing children into group recitals of a loyalty oath isn’t an intrusion and restricting the free speech rights of educators is a good thing when they aren’t wealthy enough to avoid all that by attending or working at a private school.
That matches, almost, the irony of closing a public place like the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza in Eugene, Oregon to free speech after 11 P.M. every night. If you can’t stand in a public place that is probably empty at midnight and speak out loud, then you don’t have free speech rights at all – you only have what limited rights any local government chooses to allow. Just as bad is the fact that taxpayer dollars are used to enforce that violation of our Constitution.
When the Pledge of Allegiance most Americans were taught as children is recited in a public place today, I stand with my fellow citizens and place my hand over my heart, just as they do. But the pledge I make is silent and much shorter from the pledge everyone recites aloud. It sounds like this:
“I pledge my allegiance to the republic of the United States of America, and to the promise of liberty and justice for all.”
That’s the best compromise I can make with my spiritual beliefs, which are a kind of unorthodox mix of Quaker and Buddhist principles. I don’t believe in pledging faith in an icon or a symbol. I can’t state that the U.S. offers “liberty and justice for all” when it never has and still does not.
But I can pledge in good faith to the ideal of America, to its existence and to its potential. And I do what I can to promote the Constitutional freedoms we all embrace as Americans.
Or most of us do, anyway. When elected representatives speak of freedom but act to restrict the freedom of those who hold different perspectives, they become the worst problem we have in government. When they try to compel others to behave according to their own personal beliefs, they need to be removed from office at the earliest opportunity.
And that would happen if we ever achieve a voter participation level of 90 percent or more, as it should be in a citizen-owned free republic. Until then, each individual must assert their rights on a daily basis in order to protect them – and perhaps stop believing that coercing others into officially sanctioned behavior is an acceptable solution to a social issue.
Rob Lafferty is a former newspaper editor, a National Affairs columnist and a Truly Independent Voter who now lives in the deep woods of the Coast Range.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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