Tim Chitwood

America doesn’t force flag loyalty

Oh say, can you see the football player who won’t stand for the National Anthem’s going to be all over the news again?

What’s his name? Casperneck? Pepperjack? Something like that.

He’s going to be on the cover of Time magazine. That’ll get the patriots up in arms again.

They say it’s obviously his right to sit or kneel during the anthem in protest of racial injustice, but they still don’t like it, and someone ought to do something. But what?

He’s an NFL quarterback: You can sack him, intercept his passes, and knock him out of bounds so he bounces like a pinball off the Gatorade bucket. A football player’s among the few people you legally can beat up, if the ball’s in play.

But you can’t threaten to kill him, as some chose to, because that is a terroristic threat, and that is not free speech. It’s against the law.

Also illegal is forcing public school students to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

That’s worse than picking on … what’s his name? Caperbites? Knackerjacks? Whatever. He’s an adult who can stick up for himself. Bullying children into rites of loyalty is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution.

Yet some educators aren’t educated enough to know that. Last month came reports of a California teacher who cut an American Indian student’s grade because she in deference to her oppressed ancestors wouldn’t recite the pledge. The teacher told the student “those people, they’re not alive anymore, your ancestors.”

True. Our dead ancestors killed her ancestors, so there.

Speaking of history, the Supreme Court in its 1943 ruling West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette wrote:

“Probably no deeper division of our people could proceed from any provocation than from finding it necessary to choose what doctrine and whose program public educational officials shall compel youth to unite in embracing. Ultimate futility of such attempts to compel coherence is the lesson of every such effort from the Roman drive to stamp out Christianity as a disturber of its pagan unity, the Inquisition, as a means to religious and dynastic unity, the Siberian exiles as a means to Russian unity, down to the fast failing efforts of our present totalitarian enemies. ... It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to our Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”

The court’s post-Pearl Harbor decision upholding a student’s right to dissent overturned one from 1940. In the midst of World War II, symbol worship was the mark of our enemies.

Despite comparisons to the Nazi salute, West Virginia made students stand with their right hands out, palms up, to recite the pledge. Those who refused were expelled and treated as truant, their parents subject to fines and jail time.

The dissenters were Jehovah’s Witnesses, who believe the Ten Commandments forbid their bowing to any graven image.

Our Constitution does not permit the government to force flag loyalty, the court wrote:

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us. We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”

So opponents are free to tackle Colin Kaepernick, but a public school student with conscientious objections to compelled ritual is beyond their reach.