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N.H. House votes to mandate Pledge of Allegiance in schools

By The Associated Press

03.09.02

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CONCORD, N.H. — After an emotional debate over what makes a patriot, the House voted March 7 to require school districts to set aside time every day for pupils to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

His voice cracking, World War II veteran Alf Jacobson described looking up from his fox hole on Iwo Jima to see the American flag flying.

"I shall never forget that moment because it gave to me a pride in my country," said Jacobson, R-New London. "I love my country. This bill does not require any person to cite the Pledge of Allegiance."

Jacobson said the flag is a symbol "and symbols are important."

Opponents protested they are just as patriotic, but argued the measure, HB 1446, would not teach patriotism even in the post-Sept. 11 world.

"This bill is a feel-good measure at a time when we need to feel good about our patriotism," said state Rep. Iris Estabrook, D-Durham. She said it would not accomplish its goal of instilling patriotism in children; rather it would limit freedom by requiring them to stand in class or be ridiculed.

"It will teach them about coercion and dissent," she said. "Do we think we can teach patriotism with a stick?"

The bill would require school districts to authorize a time during the day to recite the pledge. All pupils would have to stand during the oath, but reciting would be voluntary.

Currently, setting aside time to recite the pledge and the Lord's Prayer is voluntary.

At times, the debate dissolved into fingerpointing about what it took to be a patriot.

"I won't apologize for hurting feelings," said state Rep. Ed Putnam, R-Hampstead. "It is time more respect is shown for all those who went before us."

"This is an election year. I don't have to tell you what political fodder this would be that you voted against the Pledge of Allegiance," Litchfield Republican Loren Jean said.

Jean reminded the House that the bodies of soldiers killed in Afghanistan were being brought back to the United States this week.

"As we speak, military honors are being given those who stood for their republic," he said.

Greenfield Republican Bruce Dearborn countered that the issue isn't about patriotism, but whether requiring children to stand violated their constitutional rights to free speech.

"If they don't stand, they won't go to jail for it," countered Derry Republican Frank Sapareto, the bill's prime sponsor.

In the key vote, the House voted down a move to kill the bill, 234-121, then fought off an attempt to remove a provision authorizing a voluntary time to say the Lord's Prayer. That vote was 249-107. The final vote to send it to the Senate was 253-101.

About half the states now require the pledge as part of the school day, and a half-dozen more recommend it. This year, bills to make the oath mandatory have been brought up in Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, Colorado, Mississippi and Indiana.

Related

Lawmakers push to make pledge mandatory in schools
Supporters say requiring students to recite Pledge of Allegiance will inspire patriotism, but opponents argue patriotism can't be mandated.  03.03.02

Iowa House votes to make schools display U.S. flags
Proposal included in larger measure affirming teachers' right to begin school day with moment of silence.  03.12.02

Tennessee Senate unanimously backs Pledge of Allegiance bill
Public school students would be allowed to opt out of daily recitation if they or their parents objected to the exercise.  04.18.02

Pledging to instill patriotism
Lawmakers, school officials want to bring back pledge of allegiance, national anthem.  10.26.01

Oklahoma House passes moment-of-silence bill
Measure would also require schools to display U.S. flag, teach students about flag's history, etiquette.  03.21.02

Recite pledge, but know meaning behind the words
By Charles Haynes Students need to learn that respecting the flag means respecting fundamental rights — including the right to dissent or opt out on grounds of conscience.  10.28.01

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