Two Senate bills in the Oklahoma legislature are seeking to compel public-school students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance are being met both with excitement and skepticism.

The first, SB 1143, authored by State Sen. Rob Standridge (R-Norman), would require elementary students to recite the pledge each day. The other, SB 1500, from State Sen. Larry Boggs (R-Wilburton) would require essentially the same thing. On Monday, both bills sailed through the Senate Education Committee and are now heading towards the full Senate for a vote.

Red Dirt Report communicated with Brady Henderson with the American Civil Liberties Union office in Oklahoma City. Asking his opinion on the appearance of these bills, requiring the students to recite a daily oath,

Said Henderson: “We are opposed to both bills (SB 1143 and SB 1500), although we certainly have nothing against the Pledge of Allegiance for those who choose to recite it and take it to heart. In fact much of what is spoken in the Pledge, such as a commitment to ‘liberty and justice for all,’ is about the same principles to which we at ACLU commit ourselves and our work every day.

That said, both bills carry significant problems in both concept and execution:

First, by forcing school districts throughout the state to adopt a one size fits all model and force participation by each classroom, if not each student, the bills tend to weaken an otherwise positive message of the Pledge for all students. For those students for whom the Pledge is consistent with their own beliefs and/or their parents’ beliefs, the bills take something chosen and makes it into something compelled. Any parent knows that is seldom an effective way to get a child to understand or appreciate something important. For students who would choose not to participate out of religious or other convictions, the bills will strengthen the stigma and marginalization that they will feel. Thus something meant to unite students will in practice likely divide them, and make school a less accepting and nurturing environment.

Second, the bills represent yet another state intrusion into local control of schools by local parents and teachers. Both bills create yet another state mandate that forces school districts already stretched to the limit to incorporate one more thing at the expense of instructional time. If we want our students to appreciate their country, we would do better to let teachers actually have time and resources to engage students in real conversation about our history, government, and Constitution, rather than simply mandating the cold recitation of a required set of words each day. There is much to appreciate and love about our communities and our country, and if we give students meaningful education about things like civil rights and liberties, young people will develop a far better and deeper commitment to our nation and what it stands for.

Overall, both bills would lead to plenty more children blindly repeating a set of words about allegiance, but at the expense of developing real dedication to the things those words are supposed to express. If the government wants our allegiance, it needs to stop trying to manufacture young citizens who will follow the government’s orders because they’re told to, and start working to earn the respect of citizens both young and old. That respect will translate into choices, and those choices into a future that actually has a chance to preserve our ‘one nation’ and its commitment to ‘liberty and justice for all,’ rather than leading us to became just one more of the many sad countries where people possess liberty on paper and oppression in practice.”

And Adam Soltani, executive director of CAIR-Oklahoma, offered the following statement: “We believe that mandating the Pledge of Allegiance contradicts its contents.  The liberty discussed in the Pledge of Allegiance includes the right to make that pledge freely rather than by compulsion. We dishonor the Pledge of Allegiance by mandating its recital.”

“The passage of such legislation also has the potential of infringement on First Amendment rights. The pledge of allegiance is truly a sign of patriotism, however upholding our constitution is the best way to express our patriotism.”