Federal court rules part of Florida Pledge of Allegiance law unconstitutional

Federal court rules part of Florida Pledge of Allegiance law unconstitutional

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] Wednesday upheld [opinion, PDF] part of a Florida law [text] that requires students in grades kindergarten through 12 to obtain parental permission before they can be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance [text; JURIST news archive]. The court held that another provision requiring all students to stand, even if excused from reciting the Pledge, violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution [text], and is therefore not enforceable. Stressing that the case involved the protection of parental rights rather than those of children, the court stated:

[T]he refusal of students to participate in the Pledge — unless their parents consent — hinders their parents' fundamental right to control their children's upbringing. The rights of students and the rights of parents — two different sets of persons whose opinions can often clash — are the subject of a legislative balance in the statute before us. The State, in restricting the student's freedom of speech, advances the protection of the constitutional rights of parents: an interest which the State may lawfully protect.

AP has more.

In June 2006, a federal district court struck down [JURIST report] the Florida law as unconstitutional, citing West Virginia v. Barnette [opinion, PDF], a 1943 United States Supreme Court decision holding that students have a constitutional right not to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the 2004 Supreme Court case Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow [opinion, PDF], three concurring justices affirmed the constitutionality [JURIST report] of public-school teachers leading the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms.