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Minnesota governor vetoes Pledge of Allegiance requirement

By The Associated Press

05.23.02

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Saying patriotism should come from the heart, Gov. Jesse Ventura yesterday vetoed a bill that would have required public school students to say the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week.

Ventura had hinted he would veto the bill, saying on several occasions he had seen no problem with patriotism in the United States, particularly after Sept. 11. And he compared a pledge requirement to the indoctrination practiced by the Nazis and the Taliban.

"I am vetoing this bill because I believe patriotism comes from the heart,” Ventura said in his veto message. “Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice."

Being a patriot means voting, attending community meetings, paying attention to the actions of government and speaking out when needed, he said.

"No law will make a citizen a patriot," Ventura said.

The measure was a compromise that easily passed both the House and Senate. But the Legislature has adjourned and cannot override the veto unless Ventura convenes a special session for some other purpose, which appears unlikely.

A Senate provision would have required teachers to tell students who don' t want to participate that they don' t have to. State Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, argued that the statement would have helped prevent nonparticipants from being branded as unpatriotic.

But House negotiators said such a declaration would undermine the pledge' s importance and set a bad precedent for any other classroom directive, and the provision was dropped.

Instead, the vetoed bill would have directed school districts to inform students of their rights in a student handbook or school policy guide.

School boards would have had the power to opt out of requiring the weekly recitation via annual votes.

Many schools already offer the pledge. A Minnesota School Boards Association survey last year found that 169 of 230 districts responding said that their students say the pledge with some regularity.

But state Sen. Mady Reiter, a chief sponsor of the bill, said that wasn't enough.

"I am very disappointed that the governor ... saw fit to veto a Pledge of Allegiance bill which gave opt-outs at every opportunity," said Reiter, R-Shoreview.

Half the states now require the pledge as part of the school day, and half a dozen more recommend it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This year, legislatures in several states were considering making the oath mandatory. It wasn't immediately clear how many had passed such requirements.

Text of Ventura veto message

“I have vetoed and am returning Chapter Number 391, House File Number 2598, a bill requiring school pledge of allegiance recitation.

“I am vetoing this bill because I believe patriotism comes from the heart. Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice.

“Chapter 391 is not about choice. In Chapter 391, the State mandates patriotic actions and displays. Our government should not dictate actions. The United States of America exists because people wanted to be free to choose. All of us should have free choice when it comes to patriotic displays.

“According to West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (U.S. Supreme Court, 319 U.S. 624, 1943), the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

“This case went on to state that words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds, inspired by a fair administration of wise laws enacted by the people's elected representatives within the bounds of express constitutional prohibitions. In other words, a government wisely acting within its bounds will earn loyalty and respect from its citizens. A government dare not demand the same.

“There is much more to being a patriot and a citizen than reciting the pledge or raising a flag. Patriots serve. Patriots vote. Patriots attend meetings in their community. Patriots pay attention to the actions of government and speak out when needed. Patriots teach their children about our history, our precious democracy and about citizenship. Being an active, engaged citizen means being a patriotic American every day. No law will make a citizen a patriot.

“For these reasons, I vetoed this bill.

“Sincerely,

“Jesse Ventura, Governor”

Related

State lawmakers draft more than 1,200 Sept. 11-related bills
Report outlines measures introduced nationwide that range from making terrorism a capital crime to requiring teachers to lead students in Pledge of Allegiance.  04.22.02

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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