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Texas high school student suspended for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance

Texas high school student suspended for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance

Forced allegiance is no allegiance at all.

The familiar sound of students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in the morning before the beginning of the school day is a tradition worth keeping.

For many children, it is one of the earliest ways in which they show appreciation and support for their country.

Most students recite this pledge day in and day out and never think anything of it. Occasionally, however, students refuse.

When a student refused to stand for or recite the pledge at one Texas high school, the school came down hard.

From KHOU 11 News:

 Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

That’s why he’s taken a pledge of sorts to not say the Pledge of Allegiance with classmates.

“I’ve basically said it from the time I was in kindergarten to earlier this year and that’s when I decided I was done saying it.”

For the most this year, his silent protest has gone unnoticed. But on Wednesday, when a different teacher observed it for the very first time, the Needville High School sophomore ran into trouble.

“And she told me this is my classroom,” said Michalec. “This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand. And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up.”

Michalec says the principal sentenced him to two days of in school suspension, and warned that he could face more ISS if his protest continued.

It’s a consequence the 15-year-old seems prepared to face.

Reporting on this story, HotAir authors Jazz Shaw and Erika Johnsen came down on opposite sides of the debate as to whether the school was within its rights to level the suspension against the young man.

Johnsen pointed out that the issue was settled by the Supreme Court over 70 years ago, and that the school clearly infringed on the Michalec’s constitutional right not to be coerced into saying the Pledge of Alliegance.

Shaw made an interesting counterargument, noting that children have their rights limited often, “because they’re children.”

We limit the constitutional rights of children all the time, and judging by other cases which Doug and I have argued in the past, I believe he knows that as well. We don’t let children vote to elect our representatives. We limit their access to potentially dangerous substances and activities. They generally can’t even get a tattoo or have an aspirin issued to them in school without an adult’s supervision and consent. Why?

Because they are children. [Emphasis Original]

While Shaw is correct to the extent that we limit a great many of children’s rights on account of their age, I’m inclined to agree with Erika. Indeed, none of the examples Shaw points to are in fact “constitutional rights,” in the same way choosing or refusing to speak is.

There is no explicit constitutional right to get a tattoo, or to ingest dangerous substances. The legality of these activities are weighed against the potential public harm (basic public health considerations come to mind), and a consensus is arrived at.

There is also no inherent constitutional right to vote. True, the 15th amendment ensures that you cannot bar an individual from voting on the basis of race, and the 19th amendment bars denial of voting on the basis of sex, yet neither of these guarantee a broad right to vote. Similarly, the 26th amendment prohibits anyone from being barred from voting due to age once they’ve reached 18 years old.

Despite all of these constitutional provisions, there exists no blanket constitutional right to vote, and certainly no one is born with such a right.

In contrast, you are born with the constitutional right to freedom of speech. It can be infringed upon by the government only in the most narrow of circumstances (as even constitutional rights are not absolute). This situation, however, is not such a circumstance.

This situation represents an overreaction by school administration, and it should be reversed.

Although I understand — on an emotional level — what prompted the school to suspend Michalec, the punishment seems to be indefensible from a constitutional law standpoint. Moreover, even from a practical standpoint, suspending Michalec will hardly cause him to “see the light.” Forced allegiance is no allegiance at all.

Meaningful allegiance comes not from coercion, but the freedom to arrive at that allegiance on one’s own. Michalec sounds frustrated with the way things are going in this country right now. While I personally disagree with Michalec’s decision, as an American citizen protected by the Constitution, he is allowed to express that frustration by choosing to not stand for, or say, the Pledge of Allegiance.

Below is a video of an interview with Michalec.

(Featured Image Source: YouTube)


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Could we get rid of that pledge written by a socialist and replace it with something else? Could we shift the pledge to the Constitution instead? We are not one nation indivisible when the current fed gov has violated the states’ contract with the Constitution by violating individual and states’ rights.

    Valerie in reply to showtime8. | May 11, 2014 at 11:54 am

    The Pledge has the virtue of making it clear that the government is not God. Socialists in practice make the government into God.

      tom swift in reply to Valerie. | May 11, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      Not as originally written, it didn’t. The “under God” was a rather tacky expedient appended in the ’50s when the government was in a propaganda battle with those “Godless Communists”.

      I always thought it an ineffective and short-sighted idea; a trivial effort to fight a serious menace. The problem with the Communists wasn’t that they were “Godless” (whether or not they were was really their problem, not ours) but that they were totalitarian, expansionist, subversive, and homicidal.

    I do not think any student can be forced to say it. They can be forced to be respectful while it is said.

      Ragspierre in reply to EBL. | May 11, 2014 at 3:48 pm

      Really? How does that look? “Forced respect”.

        gregjgrose in reply to Ragspierre. | May 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm

        >> Really? How does that look? “Forced respect”.

        Yeah, #1 fan here, but in some contexts it works, ask a drill sergeant?

      tom swift in reply to EBL. | May 11, 2014 at 4:17 pm

      They can be forced to be respectful while it is said

      As usual, the rub is in the details.

      At that age, the most likely manifestation of disrespect would be making loud farting noises during the recitation. I’d probably be OK with school efforts to suppress that … though I suppose it’s still protected by the First Amendment.

      Milhouse in reply to EBL. | May 13, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      Respectful of what? Of the school and their peers, yes. Of the pledge or the flag, no. Back when government schools were allowed to have prayers, they were strictly voluntary. Students who did not want to participate could sit and ignore them, or leave the room. The exact same thing applies to the pledge, which escaped the ban on all school-endorsed prayers or other religious statements. It isn’t a prayer or a religious statement, but it is a statement of opinion which students are free to dissent from, for religious or any other reasons.

    bvw in reply to showtime8. | May 11, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Amen, the Pledge is indeed a Socialist Anthem. It was w0ritten in 1892 by Francis Bellamy a fierce American-style Socialist. Many folks today call them “progressives”, as clearly his cousin Edward Bellamy was such an American-style “scientific autocracy” socialist.

    Yet the objections to the “Pledge of Allegiance” do not stop there. A forced pledge is a weak pledge, and one forced upon the weak (for children and captive audiences are weak) is especially weak. Thus forcing such groups to make a pledge, even if only subject to social ostracism for not doing so, weakens the entire concept of pledges. Pledges are serious things, not to made trifles of. The forced repetition of pledges trains a mindset, especially in the youth, that pledges and oaths are meaningless things. That is NOT A GOOD.

    Moreover the “Pledge of Allegiance” is quite clearly by the direct and simple meaning of its words a pledge to an inanimate object. The pledge is “to the flag” first, the “ideals” that the flag represents are patched on and only by inference. The phrase “and to the Republic for which it stands” is as an afterthought, the initial pledge s to a mere object. Idolatry, in a real sense. Nor is it clear to most parrots (oh, yes, parrots!, true citizens would never allow their reverence for the ideals of our Nation to be so trivialized) what “Republic” means.

    So the pledge is training in idolatry and a pre-emption of the much harder job of learning anew in each generation, each decade, each year, what is the legacy of ideals of G-d granted equality under the Law and Justice, Liberty, mutual aid and security, and a government for the people, of the people and by the people mean in a Republic.

    I will NOT say this bas-tard Pledge, nor show any honor to it.

It is really sad when the person(s) in need of the “teachable moment” are the alleged adults.

The “leaders” at that school have just demonstrated to Mason Machelic and his entire class, exactly why he should be sitting this exercise out.

Although he couches his complaint in terms of the national government

“I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” said Michalec. “I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws.”

I would submit that young Mr. Machelic’s action reflects his assessment of the way the school is being managed.

His exposure to government is through the people who run his school. He very likely does not trust the national government, with which he has no contact, because the government he does know about, the school, is run by fools.

We know the school is run by fools because they choose to pick the kind of fight with a 15-year-old that never ends well for them.

As a Canadian I have no real stake in this matter.
As an observer, it seems pretty clear that the school has a problem and fails to show proper understanding of the Pledge.

The striking thing is the politicization that this kid has become a part of.

I’m with young Michael here.

I’ll reveal a personal secret here: I cannot sing the national anthem. I have not been able to for at least two decades, though I know all the verses by heart.

I can’t get past the question in the chorus.

As respects the pledge, does the republic for which the flag stands exist? I’ve never seen the time when we were more divided and less assured of liberty and justice.

I don’t think it is a bad thing to ask those questions. But the answers can sure break you up.

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands…

You don’t pledge allegiance to the current government!!!

The United States is bigger than Obama,, bigger than the Democratic Party, Bigger than the Republican Party, and bigger than all of them combined.

That said, Both the principal and the teacher are MORONS.
I am having such a hard time trying to understand how can they be qualified AT ALL for their jobs. It is evident that these idiots don’t understand even the most basic civic principles of our democracy.

They both should be fired. Period.

Juba Doobai! | May 11, 2014 at 12:09 pm

“I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I’m foreign born so the words might be a bit out of order. Government? Where’s the government in this? The flag and the republic point to nation and its symbols regardless of who controls government, no?

Maybe the boy is over-reacting? That Obama is a Commie, pinko bastard is no reason to disrespect flag and country is it?

    tom swift in reply to Juba Doobai!. | May 11, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    The concept of “republic” has little meaning outside the context of “government”. So it’s hard to see the pledge as being to anything else but the Federal government.

    The good news is that it’s not a personal oath to whoever happens to be running the Federal government at any particular time.

      Milhouse in reply to tom swift. | May 13, 2014 at 2:06 pm

      The republic is the corporate entity; the government is its board. IBM is not the same thing as its board. Not just its current board, but even all the boards that have ever served it and will ever serve it, are not identical with the company itself.

Maybe the kid could recite from The Declaration Of Independence instead of the Pledge of Allegiance…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

I think our nation would be healthier if kids recited that in school every day.

    mzk in reply to gettimothy. | May 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    I would have a harder time with that than the pledge. I think the US is the greatest country in the world, but I don’t necessarily agree with the principles stated by Jefferson.

    tom swift in reply to gettimothy. | May 11, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    The Declaration isn’t entirely topical. The document is a list of complaints about George, some claims about basic human rights, and a call for revolt. The complaints and the part about revolt have no relevance or application today; they are part of a history long past. The basic rights part still has application. But that part is diffused somewhat if the less relevant parts of the Declaration are invoked as well.

    When Bellamy composed the Pledge, he intended it to be a very short (shorter than it is today) invocation to accompany the daily ritual of raising the flag.

    bvw in reply to gettimothy. | May 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I agree that the Declaration of Independence would be preferable to that mind-fork of a “Pledge”, and I would add or alternate with the Preamble to the Constitution, and also selections for each local State’s Constitutions , expressing a commitment to — but never a pledge or oath — to the founding ideals.

    While the words may have been written by Jefferson, they were also formed by his understanding and the reviews given them by the members of the Continental Congress at the time. Share the credit — not are they just Jefferson’s words, they are indeed the words of the great men there with him in that Congress. As if every man signing is the author!

    Yet in that declaration, there is perhaps a great lack. I think that perhaps we see the lack today, its consequence is in front of faces, that in this case of this earnest young man perhaps there is a particularly instructive instance of one great failing of those words.

    The truths of the G-d-given natural rights of man and men is NOT self-evident. It MUST be cherished and taught anew to each generation. It is no easy thing to convey, without a commitment by the culture to keep that conveyance current and potent in each era.

    The Jewish tradition has managed to keep that chain of conveyance of ideals only by the greatest of effort, even given G-d’s own surety of that conveyance. There is a week long holiday, Passover, strictly dedicated to maintaining that Jewish tradition of law and morality, from generation to generation. It is a family centered holiday, all the rituals are within a family. Yet the rituals bind all Jews to that legal and moral tradition, and it is a most effective vessel of conveyance. Our Fourth of July comes no where near it.

    The Truths are NOT self-evident. They must be taught and retaught. Re-vitalized in each generation.

Most students recite this pledge day in and day out and never think anything of it.

They sure don’t. Hell, they don’t even understand it. One nation invisible indeed.

I’ve always been annoyed by the cheap idolatry of a pledge to a piece of bunting. And it is a fact that at least some students are too, even if they don’t know the word “idolatry” yet.

There is no explicit constitutional right to get a tattoo

Since the Federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers, no American needs an explicit constitutional right to have that right. You know, as in Article 10 of the BoR, that stuff about “Powers not delegated to the United States … are reserved … to the people”.

The argument that children are a special case is fundamentally sound. The dead white guys knew that the population of the New World included children, criminals, madmen, the mentally infirm, Papists, slaves, non-landowners, women, Indians, etc, and we can probably be certain that they would not have intended that a term of art like “The People” always subsumed each and every last individual in all cases. Americans in the aggregate have the right to move about or assemble peacably; this does not mean that confining a criminal to the stocks is unconstitutional. But the blanket assertion that any old right can be arbitrarily removed at the whim of some random n’er-do-well (such as a school administrator) is too glib to be a sound legal principle. In this case, if a juvenile is old enough to have mental abilities which allow him to notice the contradictions and mushy ambiguities inherent in the Pledge, then for my money he’s old enough to decide for himself whether to recite it.

would someone please point out to me the part of the pledge that deals with government?
I don’t agree with the suspension as SCOTUS settled this problem long ago, but could someone help the lad with his critical thinking skills. Help him to understand that the pledge has nothing to do with the government

    Exiliado in reply to pakurilecz. | May 11, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    The lad is wrong.
    But, hey, he has the right to be. And he has the right to express his ‘wrongness’.
    The educrat idiots don’t have the right to punish him. Not for THAT.

    Valerie in reply to pakurilecz. | May 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    “and to the Republic for which it stands”

So, I read Shaw’s article yesterday. I commented at the time to my best friend to the effect of… until Obamacare, it was not accepted in American life that the government could compel you to buy something. Similarly, it isn’t accepted in American life (and law) that the government can force someone who is already a citizen, presumably by birth, to recite the Pledge. (For that matter, since illegal alien minors cannot be barred from a state education, we’d have the bizarre situation of foreign nationals who have not been permitted citizenship being forced to recite the Pledge.)

Moreover, the Pledge is a creation of Congress and can be easily changed by Congress. It’s by no means a requirement of the Constitution; no American, even children, is required to speak the Pledge to preserve his liberty because he/ she is already free. It’s not freedom conditional on swearing loyalty to the flag, or to a particular President or political party…

…But, that was before Obamacare. Now we could have forced national civil service. You could call it a tax on your time and labor, like serfs were required to do in previous eras. And it all starts with getting children used to the idea that the government can tell them what to say and what to believe. (But Common Core might have that covered already.)

I refuse to be shocked my this man bites dog story, given the usual reverse situation. And I actually live in a country where I have this issue personally.

On the other hand, what if he had refused because his religion disallows swearing (an issue I also have to some extent). The Constitution itself (and I do not mean the Bill of Rights) explicitly allows for that.

“Most students recite this pledge day in and day out and never think anything of it.”

This right here is why the Pledge of Allegiance is a dumb idea. Children merely reciting something learned by rote is absolutely meaningless. If they “never think anything of it”, then they are not “pledging” anything.

Contra what the author thinks, this meaningless tradition should be allowed to die out.

“Mason Michalec says he loves his country but just not the government.”

Perhaps young Mr. Michalec should be required to take a rational thinking course. No where in the pledge does it mention “government.”

I pledge allegiance to the flag, the same flag that is on every soldier’s sleeve, the same flag that was raised on Iwo Jima after unspeakable slaughter, the same flag that few over Fort Henry; and to the Republic for which it stands, the Republic given us by the Founders, the same Republic that liberated millions from the Nazis, the same Republic that spilled the blood of its citizens to liberate millions more.

If his educators have failed him, it is not teaching him the meaning of our Republic, as it was founded, not as it has been bastardized by egotistical men.

This young man has the right to disagree with the “government” and he also has the right to reject the free education being provided him by that very [state] government. If he is so convicted, then let him seek his education elsewhere and not take advantage of what it freely given him by the taxpayers of the government he holds in disdain.

    Marco100 in reply to retire05. | May 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    School attendance is COMPULSORY. Not VOLUNTARY. Moron.

      janitor in reply to Marco100. | May 11, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      Education is compulsory. Not attendance at school. Homeschool!

      retire05 in reply to Marco100. | May 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Marco100, perhaps you should check the law. One is NOT required to attend a PUBLIC school. And a student is required to attend A school, or be home schooled, until age 16.

      If this 15 year old, and his parents, have an objection to the “government” then they should not avail themselves of “government” programs. Let them pay for his education out of their own pockets.

      And before you lob pejoratives at others, it would be best to not let your mouth overload your read end first.

        Milhouse in reply to retire05. | May 13, 2014 at 1:44 pm

        If this 15 year old, and his parents, have an objection to the “government” then they should not avail themselves of “government” programs.

        What a moronic statement. Why the hell not? They are forced to pay taxes, so why shouldn’t they get the benefit from them? If a mugger takes your wallet, and then has pity on you and gives you back $10 for cab fare, only a moron would refuse to take it.

        Let them pay for his education out of their own pockets.

        They are paying for it, you moron. Who else do you think is paying for it?

        What’s more, in most states all children are constitutionally entitled to a taxpayer-funded schooling. So there’s nothing to be grateful for. The state isn’t doing anything out of the goodness of its heart, it’s just obeying the law. And the same law says that the pledge of allegiance is strictly voluntary, and no government entity may ever require anyone to say it. This has been black-letter law for longer than anyone involved has been alive.

Why the fuck do all these school districts think they should be forcing students to make these nationalistic pledges, in the first place?

What a stupid idea all around. School attendance is compulsory. The students aren’t political office holders or government employees.

We don’t have to say the goddam pledge when we go to McDonald’s or the grocery story. Why in hell do we make kids say it EVERY FRIGGIN DAY in school??? How insane and mindless is that?

However it’s been characterized, it appears that the student could properly have been sanctioned for refusing to stand and be respectful, i.e. insubordination. Had he been standing quietly, without reciting the pledge, I would support him. But not for behaving like a jerk.

    Milhouse in reply to janitor. | May 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Bullshit. Standing for the pledge is expressing support and agreement with it. This is settled law, you moron, for longer than you’ve been alive. How can you possibly not know it? The pledge is strictly voluntary, and no government entity ever has the right to force anyone to say it, respect it, stand up for it, sit down for it, or do anything at all that would express an opinion which the person does not wish to express.

    Seriously, how can someone be a school principal and not know this? Policemen are required to know the law, and when they do something whose illegality has already been ruled on they lose their qualfied immunity and are personally liable for damages. How can school principals not be held to the same standard? This boy and his parents should sue the principal in his personal capacity, and take his house.

High school kids are working out what makes sense for them while avoiding unnecessary disruption of others. This student is remarkable in actually pondering the words he has been reciting and is invoking his power to quietly reconsider. Even if a patriot thinks this retreat from the pledge is a mistake, we have to give the student the space to work out this questioning phase. I thought patriotism was about respecting peaceful disagreement. If it’s about compelling uniform beliefs, we have contaminated it with fascisim.

Pledging allegiance to a piece of cloth is idolatry, plain and simple. And the pledge itself is a piece of socialist propaganda. All parents should tell their children not to say it.

And nobody has any business being employed as a teacher, let alone a principal, in a government school, without knowing the laws that govern such schools, such as Yoder and Tinker. I mean, what’s next? I wonder whether this same principal also expels kids who wear black armbands to protest something or other.

Shaw made an interesting counterargument, noting that children have their rights limited often, “because they’re children.”

That would be a great argument if it were his parents who were forcing him to say the pledge. His parents have that right, just as they may force him to say the Nicaean Creed, or the Shahadah. And a private school to which they have expressly delegated that right, e.g. a Catholic or Moslem school, may also force him to say it. But a government school has no such right. In the case of an expressly religous statement, such as the Creed or the Shahadah, a government school may not even accept an express delegation of authority from the boy’s parents. In the case of the pledge it probably could accept such a delegation of authority, but the parents have not made one. On the contrary, by backing their son’s refusal they are expressly giving him permission not to say it. That puts them in much the same position as the Barnettes, who ordered their daughters not to say it.

Hmmm. Anyone want to see pictures of the “Bellamy salute”, used during the recitation of “The Pledge” until 1942?

Also, I thought that it was settled law that students are required neither to recite “The Pledge” not to stand during “The Pledge”.