ACLU Says Teachers Can’t Be Forced To Pledge Allegiance To American Ideals

Should teachers have to pledge allegiance to American ideals, and promise to teach students a love of their nation, as a condition of employment? Nebraska law says yes; the ACLU says no. The law is considered outdated and is, for the most part, ignored, but one Nebraska school district is asking employees to sign a pledge swearing their allegiance to the country and to teaching students the same allegiance.

In schools across the country, students and teachers stand each morning and recite a pledge of allegiance to “the flag, and the nation for which it stands.” This itself has raised controversies: see here and here for a few examples. In one Nebraska school district, though, teachers are expected to go a step further and sign an oath of loyalty.

According to Omaha, the pledge includes a declaration that they “believe in the United States of America as a government of the people, by the people, for the people; whose just powers are derived from the consent of the governed.” Teachers must also promise to instill in students a love and allegiance to their country, as well as an affirmation that America is the greatest nation in the world.

The Nebraska ACLU has written a letter to the district, addressing the pledge.

The organization says, in part, “The Nebraska law was passed in 1951. Since that time, the U.S. Supreme Court has held on several occasions that public employees may not be required to sign such a pledge.”

On Friday, the ACLU shared its full letter to the Hastings school district via Twitter, adding a call for anyone who felt concern about signing the oath of allegiance to contact the organization.

Though the Hastings Superintendent, Craig Kautz, admits that the district hasn’t previously asked teachers to sign these oaths of allegiance, and that he’d never heard of the law before this year, he told the Journal Star that he was advised by legal staff to do so this year.

He also denies that the staff is required to sign the pledge, saying that there will be no punishment for refusing to so so. Instead, he says, by asking teachers to declare allegiance, he is simply doing the minimum that state law requires. The district has faced no legal repercussions for not requiring the oath in past years, nor have any other school districts in the state.

In fact, it appears that the first legal troubles the Hastings district may face over the law requiring employees to pledge allegiance in writing could be over enforcing it, rather than decades of failing to do so.

[Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images]