In a 6-1 vote early Tuesday morning, the Madison school board removed a one-week old ban on the Pledge of Allegiance.
The vote came after over 1,200 people gathered Monday night at the Madison Metropolitan School Board Meeting to voice their opinions on a decision by the board last week to ban the Pledge of Allegiance
High emotions, anger, concern and frustration drove statements on both sides of the debate that ran into early Tuesday morning.
The stage for heated debate was set when those opposing the board’s ban abruptly stood and began reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while those supporting the school board’s decision remained seated.
Board members Shwaw Vang and Bill Keys, who voted for the ban, remained seated during the unplanned pledge, while the other five board members joined in the recitation.
Vang later recited the pledge before the board heard speakers, and many in the auditorium joined him.
Flags waved and signs supporting the board were raised as voices from both sides of the controversy roared. While most of America has been united since Sept. 11, the scene inside the Memorial West High School auditorium was a clearly divided one.
Those opposing the board, wanting the pledge to remain in Madison schools, felt the pledge is one honoring the nation, symbolizing the freedom to choose, a right upon which the U.S. was based. Those supporting the board and its decision to accommodate those students not wanting to participate in the recitation acknowledged that protecting students’ right to choose clearly falls under “liberty and justice for all,” as stated in the pledge.
President Calvin Williams quickly laid the ground rules for the nearly 230 registered speakers and claimed that no recess would occur.
“We plan to have a conclusion by the end of this forum,” Williams said.
Students K-12 were the first speakers to voice their opinions on the appropriate stance of the pledge.
Most student speakers opposed the board’s policy and wanted to keep the pledge of allegiance in their schools.
One sophomore from Madison West High School said removing the pledge was a sign of disrespect.
“Taking [the pledge] away is disrespectful to ourselves and our country,” he said.
However, some students disagreed.
Lianna Prescott, a senior at Memorial, said she was worried students were not being allowed a choice in the matter.
“When ‘under God’ was added in 1954, I feel I’ve had to choose between both the U.S. and God or none,” Prescott said.
Many supporting the board’s policy felt the same sentiment, that Madison students are forced to either believe in a country ruled under God, or not follow one at all.
Madison resident Sheila Crowley voiced this opinion of supposed supremacy.
“Tonight you have seen veiled racism, veiled homophobia,” she said.
However, others said the pledge should never have been tampered with.
“We are not forcing patriotism and not endorsing any religion,” Madison resident Monty Clifcorn said. “The United States of America and God are inseparable.”
Rumors of recalling board member Carol Carstensen and all members stirred throughout the heated debate.
Both sides did agree the school board should have never decided this controversial issue, but rather that the state government is responsible for creating the original law of requiring a pledge or national anthem daily, and it should be responsible for solving it.