Michigan state Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw) has submitted a bill, SB 637, that would require all public school districts in the state of Michigan to require each and every student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day. The bill says:
THE BOARD OF A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL DISTRICT OR BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL ACADEMY SHALL ENSURE THAT EACH PUPIL IN EACH PUBLIC SCHOOL IT OPERATES IS REQUIRED TO RECITE THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES EACH SCHOOL DAY.
This is pure pandering. If the legislation passes, it would be struck down immediately. The Supreme Court ruled almost 70 years ago that it was unconstitutional to require a public school student to say the Pledge, in one of the most famous rulings it has ever handed down.
The case was West Virginia v Barnette and it involved a Jehovah’s Witness family that objected to swearing oaths on religious grounds. Justice Robert Jackson, who was later a prosecuting attorney at the Nuremberg Trials, delivered the opinion and included one of the most eloquent and famous passages in the history of the court:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
We think 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.
The bill has numerous co-sponsors, all of them Republican. And since the Republicans have a supermajority in the Michigan Senate, they can certainly pass the bill if they want to. But frankly, I suspect they don’t really want to. They know it would be pointless. But by submitting it, they can then point to it as patriotic legislation. It is anything but patriotic, of course.