For Immediate Release
Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Tallahassee, FL, Jan. 14, 2016)—The American Humanist Association condemns two bills introduced in the Florida state legislature that would infringe upon public school students’ First Amendment right to opt out of standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
HB 1403, introduced by Rep. Doug Broxson, and SB 1600, introduced by Sen. Greg Evers, if passed would replace Florida Statute 1003.44, which requires posted notices “in a conspicuous place” that inform students of their right to not participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, as long as they have written permission from a parent. Instead, HB 1403 and SB 1600 would remove the posted notices and only require schools to mention students’ right to nonparticipation in the Pledge in student handbooks, while continuing to require students to provide written permission to sit during the Pledge.
“What could possibly be the motive behind wasting time and taxpayer money to take away these legal notices?” asked Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “This is a calculated move to make it harder for students to know their rights.”
Through its Boycott the Pledge campaign, the American Humanist Association is raising awareness of students’ right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1943, the United States Supreme Court found in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnett that students have the right not to participate in the Pledge. By encouraging students who object to the Pledge to exercise their right, the American Humanist Association aims to return the Pledge to its pre-1945 wording, which omits the phrase “under God” and does not marginalize humanists and atheists as less than patriotic, second-class citizens.
“Florida’s parental permission requirement already makes it difficult for students to opt out the Pledge if they choose to do so. Removing classroom notices will make it even more difficult for students to even be aware that they have the right to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association.
Members of the American Humanist Association in Florida are contacting their representatives to urge them to oppose the bill.
Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.