Pledging Allegiance by Will Wagner and David A. Kallman

Would Colin Kaepernick Stand and Pledge Allegiance to the Mexican Flag?

San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, is being widely praised for his brave and principled act of refusing to stand for the United States National Anthem at the start of a football game last weekend. Many Americans, of all races, paid the ultimate sacrifice so that Mr. Kaepernick could live in a nation so free he can despoil their memory by refusing to stand and assert: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The 49ers issued the following statement in response:

The national anthem is and always will be a special part of the pre-game ceremony. It is an opportunity to honor our country and reflect on the great liberties we are afforded as its citizens. In respecting such American principles as freedom of religion and freedom of expression, we recognize the right of an individual to choose and participate, or not, in our celebration of the national anthem.

In a similar vein, a Florida public school district recently invited parents to excuse their children from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America. The form stated: “I understand my rights as a parent and I request that my child, noted above, be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. This request includes standing and placing his/her right hand over his/her heart.”

Ironically, while so called “progressives” celebrated Mr. Kaepernick’s act of anti-patriotism, and approved of a public school waiver to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance, the silence was deafening when Brenda Brinsdon, a high school sophomore, stood by her conscience and refused to pledge her allegiance to a foreign nation. Brenda is a first generation Mexican-American who, unlike Mr. Kaepernick, is a proud patriotic citizen of the United States. For Brenda, the assignment in her Spanish class violated her conscience because it required her to stand at attention facing the Mexican flag, extend her arm and salute, and pledge allegiance to Mexico. Doesn’t Brenda have the same right “to choose and participate, or not” in this government compelled exercise to swear allegiance to a foreign country? A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently ruled: she does not. The Great Lakes Justice Center responded to the panel’s decision by asking for all of the judges on this Federal appellate court to hear Brenda’s case. We trust that, if they do, they will protect Brenda’s right to be free from government compelled speech.

Thomas Jefferson appealed to the vigilance of future patriots like Brenda when he uttered his prescient warning, “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.” In this regard, we find it more than a little sardonic that the government consistently diminishes only the liberty of those who honor our nation.

The authors co-founded the Great Lakes Justice Center, a non-profit corporation protecting First Amendment liberties and other civil rights. William holds the academic rank of Distinguished Professor Emeritus and served in all three branches of the Federal government. David also practices with the Kallman Legal Group in Lansing, MI