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An Iowa Republican wants to force public school teachers to stand up and recite the Pledge of Allegiance while also preventing them from saying anything “unpatriotic” about the Pledge. Because nothing screams “small government” like forcing state workers to repeat a mindless ritual in front of an audience.

It was only this school year that Iowa first began requiring the recitation of the Pledge in public schools. Students who don’t want to say it don’t have to; the law gives them that right.

But what about teachers? State Sen. Adrian Dickey (below) doesn’t want to give them the same opportunity to opt out.

Adrian Dickey – official Iowa Senate photo

His Senate File 2043, filed on Thursday, would change the law in three ways:

  1. It would require all K-12 teachers to say the Pledge of Allegiance (unless they have a disability that prevents that).
  2. It would require all K-12 teachers to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance (unless they have a disability that prevents that).
  3. It would ban all K-12 teachers from saying anything about the Pledge of Allegiance that students could interpret as “unpatriotic” or politically influential.

If a teacher violates those rules, a first offense would lead to a written warning, a letter sent home to parents, and a notice to the board of education.

A second offense? All of the above (again) and a one-week suspension without pay.

A third offense? All of the above (again) and the teacher would be fired.

That means a teacher who respectfully remains seated and silent during the Pledge of Allegiance — even while students are allowed to stand and say it — could theoretically be fired after three days.

This isn’t the kind of bill you file because you care about public education and doing what’s best for students. You file it because you’re waging war with teachers while also making a political statement to an insane group of voters who claim to be patriotic while trying to destroy our democracy.

I’ve made an entire podcast series about the history of the Pledge, but just to go over the biggest concerns…

The phrase “under God” pushes religion onto people who may not be religious. The Pledge suggests, falsely, that we really have “liberty and justice for all.” It was originally written to promote anti-immigrant sentiment. And frankly, our country isn’t always one that deserves admiration — why would we want to “pledge allegiance” to a nation that is so often a global embarrassment?

To put it another way, teachers in Iowa could lose their jobs simply by teaching students about the history of the Pledge of Allegiance because its history is un-American at its core.

Dickey just doesn’t care. He wants to force teachers to fake their patriotism by reciting propaganda because his brand of conservative politics is incapable of earning that respect on its own merits.

For those who are wondering, Supreme Court precedent may not be much help here. While the Court has long said that students cannot be forced to stand for or recite the Pledge, they haven’t specifically weighed in on teachers in this regard, though lower courts have usually sided with the teachers. In principle, though, the idea that educators should be forced to participate in a religious ritual — that’s all the Pledge is — violates every value we claim to hold dear.

Teachers can’t stop students from saying the Pledge, but no one should force teachers to say it either.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.