Foundation Urges National Anthem, Not Pledge, Be Offered in Wisconsin Public Schools

“Choose Most Secular, Least Coercive Alternative”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national association based in Madison, Wis., has called upon the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction, as well as the Madison Metropolitan School District, to substitute an offering of the national anthem for planned daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Our office has received distraught phone calls from teachers in Madison who have been told the Pledge of Allegiance will be broadcast daily over the intercom in the Madison public schools,” said Anne Gaylor, Foundation president. Some other districts have announced similar plans beginning on October 1, to comply with a statutory amendment passed in the state budget.

The change requires public schools to offer either the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem every day.

“Public schools should pursue the most secular, and the least coercive alternative,” said Gaylor.

Nothing in the statute requires that the Pledge or the national anthem be broadcast. “A recitation of the Pledge over the intercom means that pupils cannot escape it, even if they are not required to rise or recite it,” Gaylor pointed out to Madison Supt. Art Rainwater.

“We are especially concerned that a captive audience of schoolchildren could be exposed every day to a religious pledge,” she added. The Pledge, which was originally secular, was amended in 1954 to contain the words “under God.”

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students could not be compelled to recite a patriotic pledge, in a case brought by Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, the high court has never issued a decision on the constitutionality of the religious language later added.

Many state citizens are indignant that a change of this importance could be sneaked into the state public, without public debate or “sunlight,” said Gaylor.


Freedom From Religion Foundation

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