Republicans in the Arizona legislature are submitting several bills aimed at protecting the rights of the citizens of Arizona. In their zeal of patriotism, however, two bills have been submitted concerning patriotic oaths that are causing concern.
Although one might question why one would be reluctant to take a patriotic oath of allegiance to the country, they may violate the First Amendment right of the individual. If they were to pass and somehow merit the signature of the governor, they would almost certainly wind up in the courts.
HB 2284, sponsored by Representative Steve Smith would require schools in grades one to twelve to set aside a specific time during the day in which students would be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance unless their parents specifically request the pupil be excused.
According to AZCentral, Representative Smith said he introduced the legislation in response to a Maricopa high-school student who last year reported feeling mocked and embarrassed after she was the only one in her class to stand and say the pledge.
Making time for students who want to voluntarily say the Pledge should not pose a problem, but forcing them is raising First Amendment concerns.
Another bill raising constitutional eyebrows is sponsored by freshman Representative Bob Thorpe. HB 2467, would require students to take an oath to support and defend the Constitution similar to those required by public officials. In addition to passing the required course of instruction, the principle or head teacher of a school would have to certify in writing that the student performed the following oath:
I, _________, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.
Representative Thorpe said that the intent was to inspire the students to further study the Constitution. He said, however, that he intends to change the wording of the bill to make it voluntary.
“Both bills are clearly unconstitutional, ironically enough,” said American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham in the AZCentral article. “You can’t require students to attend school … and then require them to either pledge allegiance to the flag or swear this loyalty oath in order to graduate. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.”