One Nation…

The President of the Iowa Secularists sent out a message pertinent to the Separation of Church and State in Iowa. In short: an amendment requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited in classrooms was recently defeated, but may be used as a bargaining ship in future legislation. I encourage you to send letters of either encouragement or discouragement to your State Senators as applicable.Iowa Secularists,

On April 20th, at the direction of Mike Ireland, our Executive Director, Iowa Secularists’ lobbyist registered our official opposition to Senate File 470, the Education Appropriation omnibus bill before the Iowa legislature. Normally we would not have any political opinion on an education bill, but House Amendment 1571 added a late provision that would mandate the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in all Iowa classrooms. This was proposed during 2008 as stand-alone legislation and was defeated; this year it was inserted into a large, budgetary bill by Representative Windschitl. We joined the ACLU of Iowa in opposing this bill due to the Pledge of Allegiance requirement.

The Pledge of Allegiance makes an explicitly religious claim: that the United States shelters under and takes guidance from a divine being. Many mistakenly claim that the Pledge of Allegiance simply reflects a historical nod to the foundation of this nation on Christian principles. But, beyond the clear historical record that many of the founders of this nation were freethinkers and strongly resisted the conflation of religion and government, the Pledge of Allegiance was originally a purely secular oath of allegiance to the United States. Only in 1954, during the height of the Cold War’s Godly American Capitalists versus the Godless Soviet Communists McCarthyism rhetoric, were the words “under God” added. The explicit and exclusive insertion of this sentiment served no purpose except to inject religious sentiment into a previously secular mantra, pushing it over the constitutionally-mandated principle illustrated by Thomas Jefferson as a wall between church and state.

Of at least as much concern, this mandatory recitation – including compulsory body posture – needlessly injects a divisive and disruptive issue into Iowa classrooms, where minor children who disagree with the Pledge of Allegiance would be forced to either honor personal or family beliefs or isolate themselves openly in a classroom of peers, opening the door for social ostracization and exclusion.

There are doubtless many reasons to oppose such a mandated recitation of any creed or oath to any object or symbol, but Iowa Secularists restricts itself in this instance to the issue of separation of church and state. In fact, I personally know there are different feelings about this particular subject among our members and I think this is a perfect opportunity to use our meetup groups, forum discussions and other social outlets to explore where we differ; how, even though we share many common opinions, we still are anything but a homogeneous community.

Thankfully, the mandatory recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance was removed by the Iowa Senate on April 22nd. The bill now, however, moves into conference between the two houses and the Pledge requirement may end up being a bargaining chip. Below is a list of the Senators who voted for and against the Pledge of Allegiance legislation. Please call or email your Senator and express your thanks or disappointment, based on their vote. The House Amendment to add the Pledge legislation passed 95-0, so all House members should hear from their secular constituents about the necessity of church-state separation.

Most importantly, the conference committees from each chamber for this bill are Senators Schoenjahn, Boettger, Heckroth, Quirmbach, and Zaun, and Representatives Winckler, Ficken, Kressig, Dolecheck, and Sweeney. If you are one of these legislators’ constituents, your words will be especially important in ensuring that the Pledge of Allegiance mandate is removed from the education omnibus bill.

You can find your legislators’ contact information at http://www.legis.state.ia.us/FindLeg/

Iowa Secularists continues to watch legislation and politics in Iowa, taking a stand when necessary to protect the religious rights of all Iowans by strongly advocating the long-standing, bedrock American principle of separation of church and state.

Sincerely,

Bob Ready
President, Iowa Secularists

Voting Yea (for REMOVING the Pledge of Allegiance requirement) 31: Appel, Dvorsky, Jochum, Schmitz, Beall, Fraise, Kibbie, Schoenjahn, Black, McCoy, Seng, Gronstal, Bolkcom, Hancock, Sodders, Warnstadt, Hatch, Olive, Stewart, Courtney, Dotzler, Ragan, Kreiman, Heckroth, Dearden, Hogg, Wilhelm, Quirmbach, Horn, Rielly, Danielson

Voting Nay (for KEEPING the daily Pledge of Allegiance recital) 17: Bartz, Hahn, Dandekar, Boettger, Behn, Noble, Zaun, Hamerlinck, Houser, Wieck, Reynolds McKinley, Ward, Seymour, Feenstra, Kettering, Kapucian

Absent 2: Johnson, Hartsuch

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