Missouri House initially OKs Pledge of Allegiance in English
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Republican lawmaker said a measure to require Missouri public schools recite the Pledge of Allegiance in English is needed because that’s the official language of the state, but some Democrats criticized the new requirement as discriminatory and fear-driven.
The Missouri House gave initial approval Wednesday to a proposal that would require publicly funded schools recite the Pledge at least once a day, up from the current weekly requirement. The “in English” wording is also new.
Democratic lawmakers criticized the language restriction. The bill sponsor, Cedar Hill Republican Rep. Shane Roden, said leaving it out would leave a loophole.
“Next thing you know we’re reciting our Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic,” Roden said. “The Pledge of Allegiance needs to be recited in the English language because that is the official language of Missouri.”
A New York high school’s decision to recite the pledge in Arabic to promote National Foreign Language Week divided the community and drew national attention last month. The “in English” wording was added to the bill by a largely party line vote of 114-41.
Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis, said Roden was afraid and that the measure was discriminatory.
“With every layer of it, we get closer and closer to what the heart of the underlying problem is. He immediately mentioned Arabic. He’s fearful,” Montecillo said. “This is ludicrous, it’s not necessary.”
Schools getting public money have been required to recite the Pledge once weekly in Missouri since 2002. Students cannot be forced to say the Pledge, consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court case on the issue.
Missouri voters in 2008 approved a constitutional amendment making English the official language for business in the state. The issue has come up since, including in 2011 when the House passed a measure requiring all driver’s license exams be conducted in English. It did not move forward in the Senate.
The bill was passed 128-25 and faces another vote in the House, possibly later this week, before heading to the Senate.
Pledge of Allegiance bill is HB499.
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