Florida atheists despise the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance, and they want to make sure that students know they don’t have to say it. The Central Florida Freethought Community, in conjunction with American Atheists, sent a letter to Florida school districts this month informing them of their responsibilities under current state law.
“We will, after the start of the 2016-2017 school year, request a copy of your district’s student handbook(s) to verify compliance with Florida’s law requiring your district to notify students of their rights under the Constitution,” says the letter.
This clause was part of a school choice passed into law at the beginning of this year. Now atheists want to make sure that students know they don’t have to stand up and say the Pledge of Allegiance in class. They are telling schools that they must instruct their staff “that under no circumstances should they attempt to persuade students to refrain from exercising their right to nonparticipation, question students about their nonparticipation, or characterize opting out as misconduct or unpatriotic.”
So that’s happening. And that’s fine. If that’s the law, then that’s the law. And if you believe in freedom of speech, then a student should have the right to opt out of the Pledge if they so choose.
But let’s dig a little deeper. Why do atheists and liberals suddenly despise these symbols of patriotism? They call them devices of indoctrination and they say it makes non-believers feel unwelcome. Some have even said it is offensive to immigrants and makes them feel excluded. You can assign for yourself the importance of these concerns.
Here’s what they don’t get. These small acts of patriotism are important to a country with a national identity. Too much indoctrination can be a bad thing – look no further than North Korea. But it’s no better to throw all of it in the garbage. One of the reasons America is so great is that we grow up believing that America is so great. We want to keep the ball rolling. We want to make sure the future is as bright as the past. Brighter! Would we feel the same way if we grew up associating no more passion with the term “United States” than we do “North America”?
The United States isn’t above criticism, but we’re making a big mistake by turning our backs on national unity. We’re making a big mistake if we’re going to stop teaching our children how lucky they are to be living in such a wonderful country, and we’re making a big mistake if we don’t imbue them with a sense of responsibility to keep that greatness going.