Issaquah school board asked to remove Pledge of Allegiance from meetings

December 28, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

NEW — 4 p.m. Dec. 28, 2009

The Issaquah School Board may consider eliminating the Pledge of Allegiance at its regular business meetings.

At their Dec. 9 meeting, school board members were asked to eliminate the pledge from their meetings by parent Matthew Barry.

“The words ‘under God’ in the pledge are offensive to your atheist residents in this school district,” Barry said at the meeting. “A study from last year, The American Religious Identification Survey, indicates that 15 percent of Americans aren’t religious. In Washington, which is one of the most nonreligious states, 25 percent aren’t religious. So, I think it is safe to assume there are atheist taxpayers, parents, students and maybe even a few teachers in this school district.”

School board members couldn’t take action or discuss the item since it wasn’t on their regular meeting agenda, but they said they would take the item under consideration for a future agenda topic.

“It is inappropriate for the school board to ask atheists to stand and proclaim they are ‘under God,’” said Barry, a self-proclaimed atheist. “Atheists don’t believe in gods, so they certainly don’t think they or the nation are under a god.”

Barry said other residents with different religious beliefs might also find the pledge offensive.

“If the school board were asking Jews, Hindus and other non-Christians to stand and proclaim that Jesus Christ is the messiah, I’m pretty sure we’d all agree that’s inappropriate,” he said.

“It’s none of the government’s business what our private religious beliefs are, if any, and certainly none of the government’s business to ask us to stand and publicly proclaim what those beliefs are,” he added. “Most would agree it’s even worse if the government asks someone to stand and say something that contradicts their belief system.”

“If I understand his logic correctly, simply because something is offensive and unnecessary, it should be removed,” said Jared Spataro, a parent and Boy Scout Leader whose Scouts presented the colors that night. “I’m very proud to see us stand up and very proud to see my Scouts lead us in the pledge tonight and talk about God.

“We don’t necessarily say that everyone needs to believe in the same God, I think he referenced Jews and Hindus and others, but we do teach our boys, especially in the Scout program, that belief in a higher authority is important as an aspect of our community, and as an aspect of who we become in the community and how we contribute there.”

Barry said he wouldn’t have a problem with board members asking meeting participants to cite the original version of the Pledge of Allegiance, which didn’t include the words “under God” and was recited from 1892-1954. The words “under God” were added in 1954, Barry said.

Right now, schools within the state are required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and hold flag salute exercises at the beginning of each school day under the state’s revised code No. 28A.230.140.

However, the law recognizes that students can’t be forced to participate: “Students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence.”

School districts aren’t required to recite the pledge for school board meetings. In fact, the Lake Washington School District doesn’t require the pledge at board meetings, Barry said.

Since the pledge is irrelevant to the board’s work and is offensive, even if it is voluntary, it should be eliminated from the board meetings, he added.

“I understand many things we do are offensive to people,” Spataro added. “But just because a small group of people, or even a large group of people, are offended it doesn’t mean they are right.”

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at


12 Responses to “Issaquah school board asked to remove Pledge of Allegiance from meetings”

  1. Julie on December 28th, 2009 6:26 pm

    Amazing what extreme parents will go to these days. I am a parent with children in the public schools as well. I am tired of parents changing traditions because they are insulted. If you don’t like the pledge, don’t say it! It is time for parents to stand up to these other few parents who feel they can change our school district traditions because they are insulted by something.

  2. PhillyChief on December 29th, 2009 5:41 am

    As a child, I went to school with a Jehovah Witness and I didn’t understand at the time, but he couldn’t stand and recite the pledge due to the “under god” part. I know he was very uncomfortable and self conscious about it, and some kids would give him a hard time about it because he just sat there while everyone else stood and recited the pledge.

    I find it a very devious ploy by extremist Christians to tie belief to patriotism. As children, we simply saw my friend as having a problem with our country. Now it’s easy to dismiss that as just us being dumb kids and not understanding the situation, but sadly most adults react the way the kids in my class did. There’s an extremist Christian group that advertises with a child reciting the pledge and asking, “why do atheists hate America?”

    I think it’s long overdo that we restore not just the pledge to it’s original wording but also our national motto from a religiously divisive one to the original one which symbolized unity, E Pluribus Unum, From Many, One.

  3. Frank Dracman on December 29th, 2009 8:03 am

    Yay for the atheists who spoke up! I am a school board member in another district and have always considered the whole pledge thing just ridiculous. This past year,m I have pledged my allegiance at least 12 times. How many times to I need to pledge my allegiance before it “sticks”? Heck, even though I have pledged my allegiance, I reserve the right to change that allegiance if I see my country taking the wrong road so the whole thing is pointless, anyway.

    Personally, in order to “keep the peace” and not lie even to myself, I recite the stupid thing and utter “under law” at the “Under God” part (no, of course I don’t beleive in God – does anyone really?).

    The pledge thing is simply stupid.. The only purpose it serves any more is a platform for some politician to stir up the passions of the constituents. I’m, of course, wholly ignoring the glaring 1st Amendment violations inherent with the “under God:” part. How the hell did that ever get in there and stay there for so long?

  4. Bret Z on December 29th, 2009 8:16 am

    It is pure hypocracy Christians. If you say that “If you don’t like it, don’t say it”, then don’t complain when the French ban crucifixes in schools, or ban Burkas, or when the chinese ban praying in schools. You either agree the majority has a right to rule all the time, or never, but you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Yes, I’m an Atheist

  5. Red on December 29th, 2009 9:27 pm

    It is certainly permissible to exclude yourself from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. No one minds, really. But then why should you mind if I do want to recite the Pledge?

  6. NP Reader on December 30th, 2009 8:14 am

    Until the pledge is restored to its inclusive pre-1954 verbiage, I would like to see the Issaquah School District remove the pledge from any school activities including board meetings and classroom recitation. The pledge of allegiance is an oath of loyalty to the United States of America, a country. It is NOT an oath of allegiance to any god or religion. The words “under God” were added to the pledge during the McCarthy era when people were freaked out about communism and adding the words “under God” was considered a method to distinguish the US from the “commie-lovers” in Russia. Those two words should never have been added to the pledge.

    A pledge of loyalty to one’s country should be inclusive to everyone living in that country. There are many in the United States who do not believe in the existence of a god. Asking them to acknowledge the existence of a god as a prerequisite to pledging loyalty to their country is highly inappropriate.

  7. Chuck on December 30th, 2009 10:20 am

    “God” can mean whatever you decide it means. Ancients believed God to be a state of mind, or enlightenment, to the wonders of the natural world and science (the same science that proved the world wasn’t flat), and not a supreme being.

    While I’m neither a devout Christian nor Atheist, I do believe that most people aspire to be something more than they are. Whether those aspirations are sought in the religious domain or elsewhere, it is a profoundly personal and private choice.

    Recognizing the pledge is meant to unify us, if only briefly, it is incumbent on parents, not the government, to explain how best to interpret the pledge according to their own belief system. This includes a literal explanation to our children as to the purpose and meaning of the pledge, and what “God” means to all sorts of people.

    Targeting an institutional tradition as the source of some kind of maligned indoctrination is a waste of time; we have better causes to pursue.

  8. Phil on December 30th, 2009 11:36 am

    Julie wrote: “I am tired of parents changing traditions because they are insulted.”

    Why keep a tradition that insults people?

    Red wrote: “But then why should you mind if I do want to recite the Pledge?”

    Removing the pledge from the school board meeting doesn’t prevent you from saying the pledge. You can say it all you like. At home. In church. Right before the meeting. Right after the meeting. Heck, you can even whisper it to yourself during the meeting. Your rights won’t be affected in the least. All that will happen is that the school board will stop insulting some of its constituents.

    Chuck wrote: “it is a profoundly personal and private choice.”

    You’re right, Chuck. It’s a PRIVATE choice. That’s why, like the atheist said, it’s not the government’s business asking citizens to stand and tell everyone what their PRIVATE choice is. It’s always a bad idea when Big Brother sticks its nose in religion. It shouldn’t tell us we’re “under God” and it shouldn’t tell us we’re “not under God.” It should keep its mouth shut on the entire topic. That’s how we get TRUE freedom — when the government butts out.

  9. Chuck on December 30th, 2009 1:02 pm

    I hear you Phil. I also think about the return on investment here. History shows us that most of our colonial forefathers were men of enlightenment, and not personally devout to Christianity. In fact they were looking to escape the Church specifically.

    However, to win favor with the masses when it came to acts of state (and more importantly garnering votes), religion found its way into the US government. Examples of this are everywhere, the declaration of independence, the pledge, our currency, monuments, and etc.

    The fact is that as long as Christians remain influential in the US, so will be Christianity. So the question becomes, “is the juice worth the squeeze?”. While ridding government of religion may seem non-poignant to those in Issaquah, on a larger level it would be wildly distracting and divisive, and certainly would not happen in our lifetimes.

    So we are left with a decision. Can we address aspects of religion in our government like they are simply historical traditions? Or do we mount a fruitless fight?

    Remembering that I’m neither a devout Christian nor Atheist, I wonder how many of the professed Issaquah Atheists did not give their kids any Christmas presents this year.

  10. Sean on December 30th, 2009 2:57 pm

    Maybe I haven’t matured since I was in 5th grade (I’m 55)), but I STILL find reciting the pledge of allegiance, with or without mentioning dubious deities, a stupid waste of time. What. Is. The. Point? Smacks of brainwashing. (Plus I will personally vouch for the antipathy of kids toward a “weirdo” who doesn’t follow the (moo) crowd. )

  11. Alonzo Fyfe on December 31st, 2009 1:25 pm

    My objection to the Pledge is its message that those who do not support a nation under God are to be equated to those who do not support a nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    The purpose of the Pledge is to condemn as un-American those who would support rebellion, tyranny, and injustice. The reason the words ‘under God’ was added in the 1950s is because McCarthy-era Americans wanted to add atheism to this list of un-Americanisms. From that day forward, children were to be taught that any person who does not support a nation ‘under God’ was just as contemptible as one who supported rebellion, tyranny, or injustice.

  12. Mufasa on January 5th, 2010 4:14 pm

    Oh brother! What is wrong with this Barry guy? Sad that he has kids! Go be productive in something that really matters! This ain’t it.

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