Atheists Tell Florida Schools: Follow the Law on Pledge of Allegiance Issue

Cranford, NJ—American Atheists, in partnership with the Central Florida Freethought Community, has sent letters to each of Florida’s 67 county school districts advising them of their obligations to protect the rights of students who wish to opt out of participating in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In September 2015, the American Atheists Legal Center received a complaint from a parent in the Santa Rosa County School District whose child was forced to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance after being ridiculed and intimidated by a teacher. American Atheists demanded that the district advise and train teachers on the constitutional right of students to opt out of the Pledge. The district agreed and, in compliance with Florida law, posted notices in every classroom reminding students of their right to not participate in the pledge.

The Florida Legislature has since passed legislation allowing districts to inform students of their right to opt out by putting the notice in a school handbook rather than posting the notification. The law goes into effect on July 1, 2016.

As a result of this change, American Atheists and the Central Florida Freethought Community will request student handbooks from all 67 county school districts once the 2016-2017 school year starts to verify that districts are in compliance with the law.

“We are putting the school districts on notice that we are paying attention, and we want to ensure students are fully informed of their right not to participate. Students’ constitutional rights do not end when they step through the school door,” said Amanda Knief, National Legal Director of American Atheists. “The law is clear on this issue. Students have a constitutional right to refuse to participate in these sorts of ceremonies and Florida law requires districts to inform students of their right to opt out.”

You can read the advisory letter sent to the 67 school districts here.

  • Perry Thaxton

    The pledge of allegiance isn’t about religion. It is about the United States of America .
    Parents, please rethink not having your kids say the pledge. If anything, you can explain to them that you would rather not have them say “under god”.
    I don’t believe in God, but I don’t care if the pledge has the word God in it. There are more important things in this country to worry about.

    • Richard Hutchings

      True, the pledges’ original meaning had nothing to do with religion and was just about pledging allegiance to the United States. But, that changed in 1954 when a preacher/chaplain and the Knights of Columbus got the U.S. Congress and Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower to pass a bill that had people pledge their allegiance to not just the United States but, the Christian God as well. Thereby making it about religion. I think this quote from the U.S. President at the time Dwight D. Eisenhower should quell any resistance to the idea that the addition wasn’t about religion

      “From this day forward, the millions of our school children will daily
      proclaim in every city and town, every village and rural school house,
      the dedication of our nation and our people to the Almighty…. In this
      way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.”

      that about sums that up!

      • Chuck Siegfried

        Well said, Mr. Hutchings. The addition of those two words should never have been allowed in1954. They should be removed now.

    • Matt Purvis

      WRONG!!!!! Public schools should not be LEADING any sort of religious practices or endorsing any faith or god. Why do kids need to be pledging to a flag at all for that matter? Is this nationalistic indoctrination really necessary?

    • Robert miller

      more important than our constitutional rights? i doubt it

  • boyntonstu

    One Nation under Canada, and over Mexico… (Thank you Robyn Williams!)

  • Willard Bolinger

    I got my mother in 1958 in Lacey, Iowa tp reluctantly help me to compose a letter to the ACLU to challenge the requirement that in school we had to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the words just added in 1956 of “under God”. I put the letter in the mail box and caught the bus to school. Mom claimed that the ACLU never responded. About a dozens years later mom told me that she took the letter from the mail box afraid of being ostracized in the community if any law suit resulted from it. I was a junior in the Lacey School.

  • yes

    I love atheist and my comment is late, but I would question how exactly do these kids pass school test? Biology class. God created this frog six thousand years ago as seen in its composition related to the snake before the snake deceived Eve? Yes Johnny you passed your test. Next question when did this star in space develop in astrophysics? Six thousand years ago when God said let there be light? Yes Johnny. Your answer is correct. You’re getting an A+.
    Gee wiz. I mean can you graduate that way???
    My question is why would you pledge to something that couldn’t even get you out of school unless you faked it. haha

    Thank you.

    • yes

      These Christians are butt wipes!

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