Rep. Steve ‘Secession’ Smith wants to infringe on your First Amendment religious freedom

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Teabagger Little Stevie "Secession" Smith (R-Maricopa) is really making an ass-hat of himself this week with his: (1) House Bill 2291, a resolution of "interposition and nullification" to oppose any new federal firearms regulations. They're baaack! Arizona's Neo-Confederate dead-enders are back. This long-discredited theory is entirely unconstitutional. And (2) House Bill 2290, which proposes to  give disgraced former Senate President Russell Pearce a taxpayer-funded windfall as a parting gift for being recalled by the voters of his district, even though Ol' Russell was not out-of-pocket one thin dime of his own money in his unsuccessful recall bid. This guy, again. The Arizona Republic trashed this kiss goodbye to Ol' Russell in an editorial opinion today. Worst of really, really bad bills.

And now for the hat trick this week . . . (3) Little Stevie "Secession" Smith wants to infringe on your First Amendment religious freedom because some little junior teabagger "last year reported feeling mocked and embarrassed after she was the only one in her class to stand and say the pledge of allegiance" to the flag. 2 Ariz. bills push patriotic oaths in schools:

And all students in first through 12th grades would have to say the pledge of allegiance each day if House Bill 2284, sponsored by Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, passes.

Under current law, schools must set aside time for the pledge each day, but students may choose whether to participate.

Smith, a self-proclaimed member of the tea party with a history of sponsoring anti-illegal-immigration measures, said he introduced the legislation in response to a Maricopa high-school student who last year reported feeling mocked and embarrassed after she was the only one in her class to stand and say the pledge.

"Is this bill going to move heaven and Earth? No," Smith said. "But it's important that our kids do this."

Yes, Little Stevie wants to trample on your First Amendment religious freedom to compel everyone to conform and to recite the pledge of allegiance. It is clear that he is ignorant of constitutional law — you're shocked, I'm sure – so here is an explanatory assist from the First Amendment Center. Pledge of Allegiance | First Amendment Center:

The compelled-speech issue seemed to have been resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 60 years ago with its landmark 1943 decision West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. Despite the decision allowing to students to opt out of saying the pledge, children have been punished for refusing to stand during or to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In March 1998, a 13-year-old Jehovah’s Witness in a Seattle middle school was forced to stand outside in the rain for 15 minutes for refusing to say the pledge. In April 1998, a 16-year-old student in San Diego was forced to serve detention for her failure to recite the pledge.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a resurgence of patriotism has swept the nation. Public schools have helped fuel this patriotic zeal by placing an increased emphasis on the pledge. Several state legislatures have either considered or passed laws requiring the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. For example, Colorado passed a law in 2002 that required all public school students to recite the pledge unless they had a religious objection or had obtained parental permission to abstain from the oath. After Colorado’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter challenged the law in federal court, the Legislature in March 2004 enacted a revised statute to allow students to opt out of the pledge.

These examples are somewhat surprising given the decision in Barnette. In that case, the high court struck down a West Virginia law that penalized students and their parents if the children failed to salute the U.S. flag or recite the pledge. The students could be expelled for insubordination, while their parents could face a $50 fine and a 30-day jail term. A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who refused to comply with the law for religious reasons, challenged the statute.

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[In Barnette] the Court nonetheless issued an opinion remarkably protective of student First Amendment rights. The Court wrote that school boards must engage in “scrupulous protection of Constitutional freedoms of the individual … [so as] not to strangle the free mind at its source and teach youth to discount important principles of our government as mere platitudes.” The Court reasoned that the First Amendment free-speech clause included the right not to speak.

Barnette established a baseline of protection for student rights and clearly held that students could not be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

 There is also a First Amendment religious "establishment clause" argument against the pledge of allegiance due to the inclusion of “under God,” which was added by Congress in 1954, but that is not currently at issue with this bill. It is compelled speech, because Little Stevie says so.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”— Justice Robert Jackson in West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)

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