There’s a new state law in North Carolina that says all classrooms have to display the American flag and that time must be set aside each day to recite the pledge of allegiance.
Arguments about the pledge as a pseudo-religious activity aside, the only problem I see with this is that the pledge loses its meaning when it’s forced. It’s like Islamic states that require women to wear burqas by law: when there is no choice in an action, when there is no decision either to wear or not to wear, to recite or not to recite; then the repetition of any action is rendered meaningless because the participant didn’t willingly engage, or otherwise decide anything about, the activity.
To put it another way, it’s like Wooley v. Maynard (1976) where the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional for New Hampshire to require citizens to display the slogan “Live Free or Die” on all its license plates. The rationale was that forced speech, especially forced “political” speech as it was in this case, cuts right against the First Amendment. But, there is a big difference between Wooley v. Maynard and the state laws about required pledge of allegiance recitation (37 states currently have such laws). The difference is that the new law pertains to schools, which are comprised almost entirely of minors, who have “less” rights as a citizen, perhaps even no rights, when compared to their adult counterparts.
So the law will most likely stay (in fact, I’m sure of it), because it’s not “patriotic” to oppose a law that’s all about praising the American flag and devoting yourself to American ideals. But for the reasons listed above, there’s something unsettling about this law, no matter how innocuous it appears on its surface. After all, our state motto is Esse quam videre, “to be rather than to seem.”