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You wouldn’t expect much drama to occur at a meeting of the Encinitas (California) Traffic and Public Safety Commission, but at a meeting this week, two of the seven commissioners created a stir when they remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.


It wasn’t even the first time Darius Degher and Christina Simokat chose not to participate in the ritual, according to Barbara Henry of the Del Mar Times. They did the same thing in December. But this time, there was more controversy.

[Commission Chairman Charlie] Lisherness has said he wanted to be respectful both to the two commissioners who have decided not to participate and to people like fellow Commissioner Peter Kohl, who said during the December meeting that he found Degher’s decision to sit and keep his hat on during the recitation of the pledge disrespectful.

“If you don’t want to say it, that’s fine with me, but all I’m asking is that you do show some respect for the people that do do it,” Kohl, an immigrant and former serviceman who volunteers with the city’s senior police patrol, told Degher.

In other words, “I respect you, but you should respect me by doing exactly what I’m doing.”

Degher is staying in his seat because he’s a patriot who loves the country, and he believes using a flag as a symbol of patriotism is misguided in today’s political arena.

He said he believes that President Donald Trump, Trump’s former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and members of the far right are fomenting a “hyper-nationalist movement” by appropriating national symbols for their own ends and using them to try to silence people who oppose them.

“At this moment in which our democracy is being attacked from within, cheerfully standing for the pledge is like wearing bright colors in a funeral procession,” he wrote in a statement that he’s been giving out to people who ask about his decision to sit during the pledge.

Degher also mentioned his disagreements with the Pledge’s origins, including the infamous Bellamy salute.

Simokat, on the other hand, isn’t going to give you a reason for why she’s not standing, because she doesn’t owe you one. And, dammit, she’s right. She’s not standing for the Pledge because she doesn’t want to. Don’t like it? That’s your problem.

Naturally, some community members are now treating those two like traitors, as if they’re doing something wrong.

At the Jan. 8 meeting, Jim Mosher, a Navy veteran who has lived in Encinitas since 1986, said during public comment that he did not agree with Degher and Simokat “furthering their political agendas” while sitting on the commission.

Standing for a Pledge that implies we’re a nation “Under God” and falsely states there’s justice for all is making a political statement. Mosher may be a veteran, but he fought for the right for citizens to reject pseudo-patriotic rituals.

The good news is that the mild protest has led to real change. They will still recite the Pledge at meetings — because wasting taxpayer time is still popular, I guess — but the chairman has promised to announce beforehand that standing up and saying the Pledge is entirely voluntary. That’s no small thing.

(Screenshot via NBC 7. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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