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February 28, 2001 1 min read
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Lessons in Patriotism

The Virginia legislature took action last week on two bills that their sponsors said were aimed at enhancing students’ patriotism.

One measure, seeking to mandate that students say the Pledge of Allegiance each day, won final passage by the House of Delegates, but not before being stripped of its enforcement provisions. The other bill, which would have required schools to post the national motto, “In God We Trust,” died in a committee.

Warren E. Barry

Sen. Warren E. Barry, a Republican who sponsored the pledge bill, said he was extremely disappointed with the version passed by the House on Feb. 22, which did not include a provision requiring students to recite the pledge or face expulsion, unless they had religious grounds for refraining.

The senator vowed to fight to restore that enforcement section, which was in the measure passed by the Senate, when a committee meets to reconcile the two chambers’ versions.

“The bill is meaningless if you can’t discipline schoolchildren, and they can give any reason they want for not saying the pledge,” he said.

Mr. Warren said his strong feelings about the bill led him to call members of the House education committee “spineless pinkos” for deleting the provision. The widely reported comment sparked heated rebuttals on the House floor.

“My mouth just went before my brain,” Mr. Warren explained last week. Still, he said he was “shocked at the level of opposition to a bill that was supposed to be patriotic.”

In a landmark 1943 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law requiring West Virginia students to salute the flag.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s education and health committee effectively killed the motto bill by sending it for further study to a committee that won’t meet again until next session. The bill had passed the House last month by a vote of 84-14.

— Lisa Fine

A version of this article appeared in the February 28, 2001 edition of Education Week

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