Friday, February 07, 2003

Max Mishkin, American Patriot

In my own state, too.

Max Mishkin, a suburban Philadelphia high school sophomore who gets straight A's in all honors classes and plays in the school band, describes himself as "patriotic."

But Mishkin, 15, who also works on the school newspaper, doesn't think much of a new state "patriotism law" that requires students in public, private and parochial schools throughout Pennsylvania to recite either the Pledge of Allegiance or the national anthem each class day.

The new law, signed late last year, was to take effect today, but state officials last night agreed not to enforce it until a lawsuit filed by Mishkin and a private school in Harrisburg is heard by a federal judge.

Several Philadelphia lawyers, assisted by the American Civil Liberties Union, filed the lawsuit late yesterday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, contending the new law was unconstitutional.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a controversial ruling last year by a federal appeals court in San Francisco stating that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the principle of a separate church and state.


The new law "compels private schools, like the Circle School, and their students to adhere to a state-imposed ideology in a state-mandated manner," the lawyers complained.

Private schools that violate the law would face suspension or revocation of their license.

State Attorney General Mike Fisher and Secretary of Education-designee Vicki Phillips were named as defendants, along with eight members of the state Board of Private Academic Schools.

Under the law, schools must see to it that students recite either the Pledge or the national anthem at the beginning of the school day.

The only exception is for religious schools, which don't have to comply with the law if the school believes such forced recitals violate the "religious conviction on which the school is based."

Could this law be as screwed up as it the reporter makes it sound? That is, individuals aren't allowed to be exempted due to their beliefs - whatever they are - but religious institutions are allowed to be exempt?

(via Pandagon)

UPDATE: The law does allow individual opt-outs, but it requires the parents to be informed when it happens.