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Appeal of pledge ruling unlikely, Gov. Bush says

On Thursday, a federal judge struck down a state law requiring students to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. On Friday, Bush said that's okay.

Published June 3, 2006

TALLAHASSEE - The state is unlikely to appeal a federal judge's decision that Florida cannot require students to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp on Thursday struck down the state's compulsory pledge law, which also required students to get a parent's permission to be excused from the daily recitation.

The governor said attorneys for the state are examining the ruling and an appeal still might be filed if they believe it could succeed.

"But, look, individuals do have the right to dissent or the right to not say the Pledge of Allegiance," Bush said. "I think that's constitutionally clear. I don't know why you wouldn't want to do it, but I don't think we need to spend a lot of time and energy on this."

Ryskamp ruled the law and a similar Palm Beach County School Board policy violated the First and Fourth amendments to the U.S. Constitution in a lawsuit that the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of a student who had been punished for refusing to stand for the pledge.

"Judge Ryskamp is a solid, solid jurist," Bush said.

Teacher Cynthia Alexandre told Cameron Frazier, then a 17-year-old junior at Boynton Beach High School, that he was "so ungrateful and so un-American" after he twice refused to stand for the pledge Nov. 8, according to the lawsuit.

The school board in February voted that students no longer had to recite the pledge or stand for it.

Bush said that "99.99999 percent of students stand up and say the pledge because they think it's appropriate and they love their country."

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 ruled in a West Virginia case that school children can opt out of reciting the pledge on religious grounds. Justice Robert Jackson wrote for the high court:

"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. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us."

[Last modified June 3, 2006, 07:01:12]

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