DES MOINES — As many times as she has recited it, Rep. Christina Bohannan still loves to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
“No matter how many thousands of times I’ve recited it, it always makes me feel reverent and proud to be an American,” the freshman Democrat from Iowa City said Tuesday in encouraging passage of a bill requiring Iowa K-12 schools to administer the pledge and show the U.S. flag every day.
The bill’s sponsor, freshman Rep. Carter Nordman, R-Adel, rejected arguments that the bill imposes another mandate on schools. Rather, it could be “an opportunity for teachers to begin teaching the real meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance.” Iowa, he added, is one of a few states without a law addressing the pledge.
“We don’t pledge our allegiance to a government. We don’t pledge our allegiance to a person or leader,” Nordman said. “We pledge our loyalty to an idea, the American idea.”
House File 415 would require accredited and non-accredited K-12 schools to administer the pledge on a daily basis and to show the U.S. flag while the pledge is recited. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that forcing students to recite the pledge is a violation of the First Amendment, so students and parents could opt out.
Reciting the pledge may cause students think critically about the pledge and whether the nation is living up to those words, Bohannan said before HF 415 was passed 91-3.
“Our kids might ask whether our republic can last when many of our leaders refuse to denounce those who subvert our democracy,” the University of Iowa law professor said. “They might ask how can we be one nation indivisible if those in power pass election laws to suppress the votes of their fellow Americans. They might ask whether we have liberty and justice for all if transgender people are denied their liberties and Black Iowans are more than 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.”
That may provide a lesson in what makes America great, Nordman said.
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“We can be on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum,” he said. “We can disagree. We can have those debates. But at the end of the day, we all know we’re united under one flag.”
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