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Dallas, Texas, United States

Friday, April 29, 2022

Pledge Abuse

Recently in Houston, a former student Mari Oliver was awarded $90,000 in compensation for the abuse she received from her high school teacher.  The teacher had punished her for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  The New York Times article notes that in the past other students who have refused to say the Pledge have been arrested or expelled.

I remember when we fought the introduction of Texas laws mandating morning religious rituals in public schools.  Texas legislators started requiring a moment of silence for morning prayer.  They also added "under God" to the state pledge while making recitation of the revised pledge mandatory as well.

When we argued our cases before the courts, what we heard back was that this was not a coercive abuse of First Amendment rights because it was merely a patriotic exercise.  They stated that children would always have the right to opt out.  We recognized that this argument was a sham but the federal appeals courts decided otherwise.

I remember back when we started at the first rung of climbing our way up the courts, an incredulous judge asked our attorney point-blank if we really expected him to strike down the law.  I do not remember how our attorney responded but sometime later I thought of what could have been the perfect response.  Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a traditional legal phrase which translates from the Latin as "Let justice be done though the heavens fall".