In light of the presidential campaign debate over whether reciting the Pledge of Allegiance should be required in public schools, Americans United for Separation of Church and State has pointed out that forced recitations of the pledge were outlawed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1943.
Vice President George Bush and other GOP politicians have criticized Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic presidential candidate, for his 1977 veto of a bill that would have required public school teachers in the state to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance each school day.
The Rev. Robert L. Maddox, executive director of Americans United, noted that the Supreme Court's ruling against compulsory recitations of the pledge came in a suit brought by a group of Jehovah's Witnesses who had religious objections to saluting flags or participating in civil government.
"The pledge to the flag speaks of a nation that provides liberty and justice for all," said Maddox, a Southern Baptist minister. "In 1943 the Supreme Court rightly ruled that to compel any citizen to recite the pledge violates the very freedoms those words guarantee."
The Americans United leader declared that "public officials have an obligation to uphold religious freedom and the court decisions designed to protect it." He said it is "very unfortunate that such a sensitive religious liberty issue has become a political football in the presidential campaign."