San Jacinto, California School Teacher Berated An Atheist Student For Refusing To Stand During Pledge Of Allegiance

A junior high school student in San Jacinto, California, says that he was berated by his teacher after refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance, and an atheists’ rights organization has come to his defense.

Eleven-year-old seventh-grader Ivan Covarrubias told the Riverside, California, news outlet Press Enterprise that he was “scared” when a teacher told him off for not standing during the Pledge, which violates his (Ivan’s) atheist beliefs.

“I was shocked at what he said.”

According to Ivan, the day the atheist student refused to stand for the Pledge, his teacher questioned his patriotism.

“Is it your religion, do you have a personal problem, or do you hate America?”

Ivan then went home and told his mother about the incident. Sandra Covarrubias explained that she and her family don’t have a problem with being made to say the Pledge of Allegiance itself, just with the words “under God.” (According to this Inquisitr report, the words “Under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, during the height of the Cold War). For this reason, she expects her children to sit, not stand, during the Pledge.

“We’re an atheist family, we don’t really believe ‘under God’ should be in the pledge. I’m OK with the flag, just take those words out.”

The next day, according to Ivan, the teacher refused to let the matter go, telling him that he should be grateful for the opportunities he’s provided by America, such as an education.

Ivan also contends that there are pro-religion materials in his classroom, including a banner that says “prayer changes things.”

Ivan’s mother contacted the American Humanists Association, an atheists’ rights advocacy group, about Ivan’s troubles. According to their story on the incident, they sent a letter, which can be viewed here, to the San Jacinto Unified School District.

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, spoke on behalf of Ivan, and all atheist students in public schools.

“No student should be reprimanded for exercising her or his rights. The backlash that atheist students face for sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance is proof of the divisive nature of its words.”

David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Leagal Center, says that atheist students like Ivan face discrimination and backlash at public schools for refusing to say the Pledge.

“Compelling students to stand for the Pledge against their will is an egregious violation of their fundamental First Amendment rights. Instead of harassing students who sit out the Pledge, teachers should respect them for giving thoughtful consideration to the daily exercise.”

Do you believe that atheist students at public schools, like Ivan, should be punished for refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance? Let us know what you think in the comments.

[Image courtesy of: Patheos]

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