Elementary School Ends Mandatory Pledge of Allegiance After Free Speech Group’s Push

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A free speech nonprofit organization celebrated a “victory” on Tuesday after urging an elementary school in Frederick County, Maryland, to stop mandating the Pledge of Allegiance for students and staff.

Following pressure from the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the school reversed its stance that required the pledge to be recited.

“The First Amendment protects not only your right to express yourself, but also the right to refrain from doing so,” stated Stephanie Jablonsky, FIRE senior program officer, in a statement. “That includes refusing to salute the flag. Mandatory patriotism is no patriotism at all.”

The issue surfaced when officials at Twin Ridge Elementary School in Mount Airy, Maryland, sent an email to clarify their Pledge of Allegiance policy.

The email explained that all students and teachers were to “stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance” according to the Maryland Education Code.

Aaron Terr from FIRE said a school staff member reached out to the organization. In response, FIRE contested the policy by sending a letter to the elementary school’s principal, pointing out the school’s failure to include an opt-out provision.

In her letter to Principal Heather Hobbs, Jablonsky expressed concern over the “threat to freedom of conscience” posed by the school’s requirement for students and staff to salute the flag and recite the pledge.

“While non-participation may upset others who believe the pledge is an important expressive act, that reaction cannot overcome the First Amendment’s protection of those who decide to abstain,” Jablonsky noted.

The letter concluded by demanding that the school revoke its April 26 directive and inform staff and students of their right to opt out of the pledge.

The elementary school and county school administrators issued a corrective notice, affirming that students and staff are free to choose whether to participate in the pledge.

“Liberty and justice for all means liberty and justice for all, including students and teachers who dissent from the government position,” Terr said in a statement. “Forced loyalty oaths violate the very ideals that make America worth pledging allegiance to in the first place.”

Heather Hunter
Heather Hunter
Contributor. Heather is an award-winning radio, television and film producer and previously wrote for The Daily Caller and LifeZette.

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