In a sensible move that’s sure to infuriate conservatives, the Fargo School Board in North Dakota voted this week to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance to open their meetings. The board only began saying the Pledge back in April, but the faux-patriotic ritual didn’t go over well with some members of the community who called out the unnecessary injection of God and the lie that we have “liberty and justice for all.”
On Tuesday, board member Seth Holden explained in detail why beginning their meetings with what’s essentially a Christian prayer violates the district’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, urging his colleagues to get rid of the Pledge:
“Given that the word ‘God’ in the text of the Pledge of Allegiance is capitalized,” Holden said. “The text is clearly referring to the Judeo-Christian god and therefore, it does not include any other [faiths] such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, all of which are practiced by our staff and students at FPS.“
Even Atheists and Agnostics are excluded from the pledge, Holden added, saying it is a “non-inclusionary act”.
Holden went on to say that the district has a policy that school board members should be honest, and reciting a Pledge “that contains untrue statements” would force them to go against their own rules.
After further discussion, the board voted 7 to 2 to rescind the Pledge recitation at their meetings. (The district will still allow schools to recite the Pledge, so the decision won’t affect students.)
Read about another secular win: Kansas school board repeals a “Satanist” dress code ban
Again: This is all extremely sensible. The board’s job is to discuss policies and make decisions to benefit students. Wasting time with the Pledge accomplishes neither goal. If Fargo board members want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, there’s nothing stopping them from doing it on the way to meetings or just before they begin. Usually, however, those aren’t considered acceptable alternatives because this is all about showboating. The Pledge is nothing more than performative patriotism. There’s no good reason for the board to make it an official part of their meetings.
In this case, they can’t even argue it’s “tradition.” They only began saying it at meetings a few months ago. The fact that this had to be discussed at all shows you why religious prayers have no business at public meetings.
(Ironically, the state of North Dakota permits public schools to put up copies of the Ten Commandments in classrooms. So what this board just did stands in stark contrast to what may be going on elsewhere in their state.)
These kinds of votes are usually more complicated, with ignorant residents condemning the supposed godlessness of the board members who don’t want to say the Pledge. But everyone on this board was civil and respectful, at least suggesting they were willing to entertain other arguments. They didn’t lash out against the critics of the Pledge by calling them “un-American” or unpatriotic. They listened and they understood.
Ultimately, and thankfully, the best arguments won out.