University of Oklahoma Student Government: the Pledge of Allegiance Is ‘Incompatible’ with First Amendment

Trevor Tovsen, center, with the University of Maryland College Republicans, says the Pledge of Allegiance, during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), at National Harbor, Md., Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, where President Donald Trump is expected to speak. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The student government at the University of Oklahoma voted to ban the Pledge of Allegiance in the name of “freedom of speech,” claiming that the pledge is “incompatible” with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The University of Oklahoma’s “undergraduate student congress” (the school’s student government) voted 15-11 last week to remove the Pledge of Allegiance from its agenda, according to a report by KFOR-TV, which added that this is the first time the Pledge of Allegiance has ever been removed from the student government agenda.

The students cite the First Amendment in an attempt to justify the removing of the Pledge of Allegiance, claiming that the pledge is “incompatible” with the U.S. Constitution.

“The Pledge of Allegiance is incompatible with the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment as pledging your allegiance to the flag of the United States as one nation under God conflicts to our rights to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, and to petition the government for redress of grievances,” states the resolution from September 24.

Student government members appear to ignore the fact, however, that banning the Pledge of Allegiance from their agenda hinders the First Amendment rights of those in the room seeking to recite the pledge.

“For us to be, like, the best most inclusive body, I thought that we should remove it,” said Gabi Thompson, the student who authored the resolution, to KFOR-TV.

Thompson also cited the pledge’s connection to Columbus Day, claiming that Norman, Oklahoma — the city in which the University of Oklahoma is located — does not recognize the holiday, and instead, celebrates “Indigenous People’s Day.”

“It was written as a celebration of Columbus Day in 1892, and in the city of Norman we don’t celebrate Columbus Day, we celebrate Indigenous People’s Day,” said Thompson, who added that banning the pledge helped her connect with “a lot of the international students,” who thanked her for writing the resolution.

Not everyone on campus agrees with removing the Pledge of Allegiance from the agenda.

“I think that’s just pretty much a load of crap,” said student Philip Aldridge to KFOR-TV.

“Not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is un-American,” added student Sophie Brousseau.

Similarly, the president of the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees removed the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings earlier this year, also claiming that the pledge is racist, as well as in violation of the First Amendment.

The story made headlines after former Santa Barbara Community College professor Celeste Barber fought back.

“When you recite the Pledge of Allegiance you are recommitting your oath to uphold and defend our country’s Constitution,” said Barber, contesting the bizarre notion that reciting the pledge can somehow be a violation of the First Amendment.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter at @ARmastrangelo and on Instagram.

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