House Study Bill 155 would require school districts and accredited nonpublic schools to offer the Pledge of Allegiance in grades 1-12 each school day and display the U.S. flag in the classroom during the Pledge.
Democrat State Rep. Christina Bohannan refused to sign on in support of the bill during Monday evening’s subcommittee.
“First of all, I love the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. “I’ve been doing it a very long time because I’m almost 50 years old. It still gives me chills every time I do it. So, I do like the Pledge of Allegiance.”
But, she said she had a couple of questions about the bill, which provides an exemption for an accredited nonpublic school if it conflicts with the school’s religious doctrine.
“So, my concern there is, I mean, if we think that this could violate someone’s religious rights, which we seem to think it’s possible by giving that exception, then I’m not sure this is a good idea,” Bohannan said. “That just makes me a little uncomfortable.”
Bohannan also raised questions about the wording of the bill, which states the board of directors of each district shall offer the Pledge.
“Does that mean that the board of directors just has to offer to the schools that they can do it,” she asked. “It doesn’t say that the school has to offer, it says the board of directors shall offer. So, I don’t know whether that means this is mandatory for the school or mandatory for the school district to make that possible for the schools and then to provide the flag or whatever else has to happen.
“I think it has some issues. So, for me, I’m not ready to sign on to this.”
Republican State Rep. Joe Mitchell noted that students in public schools are exempt if they have a religious conflict.
Fellow Republican Rep. Carter Nordman noted that any conflict would allow a student to be exempt – religious or not.
“It will not be forcing anybody to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.
Bohannan added that she has pause because the legislature is essentially admitting there will be some religious problems. And, she added, if a teacher is leading the Pledge, the student may feel compelled to follow because it is their teacher.
Mitchell said that Iowa is one of four states that does not already require the Pledge to be recited each morning in school.
“This is something that potentially should’ve been done a long time ago,” he said.
Mitchell said reciting the Pledge of Allegiance may help unite the country.
“I think this is one very small thing, but a significant thing that we can do to getting back to a more united country that has shared beliefs,” he said. “I think this is a great piece of legislation.”
Nordman said the intent of the bill is to make sure the Pledge is offered to the students every day.
Bohannan said she agreed about attempting to unite the country, but…
“This is maybe one way to do that, but I think the other ways would be to make sure that our kids are taught what’s in the Constitution, what free speech is, why elections are important, why democracy is important – I think the allegiance will follow,” she said.