Patriotic Pledge? Optional

Aldermen won’t be pledging their allegiance to the flag before their meetings—unless a lawmaker happens to request it.

That’s the result of a vote by the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night. Aldermen voted to grant “leave to withdraw” to a proposal that would have required aldermen to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before every meeting of the full board.

The proposal was submitted by former Westville Alderwoman Nancy Ahern in October 2012. She described it at the time as an “appropriate way to start a meeting in the United States of America.”

On Tuesday, aldermen voted to have the recitation of the pledge be an optional part of the “Divine Guidance” which opens each meeting of the Board of Aldermen. A different alderman leads Divine Guidance each meeting, offering a prayer or an inspirational thought.

Newhallville Alderwoman Delphine Clyburn, who chairs the Aldermanic Affairs Committee, said her committee considered the proposal and decided to drop it without legislative action. 

“We decided to let [the pledge] be part of Divine Guidance,” if aldermen choose it to be, she told her colleagues before the unanimous vote in favor of the leave to withdraw.

The pledge proposal was the subject of two meetings of the Aldermanic Affairs committee. At the Nov. 26, 2012, meeting, at least three members of the public testified in favor of a pledge requirement, according to minutes from the meeting.

The discussion continued at a Jan. 28 meeting, during which Wooster Square Alderman Michael Smart said that making the pledge part of the rules of the Board of Aldermen would be “moving too far,” according to minutes from that meeting.

Bishop Woods Alderman Mark Stopa spoke up in favor of saying the pledge. But when Beaver Hills Alderwoman Angela Russell moved to give the item leave to withdraw, the committee supported the motion unanimously.

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posted by: EdgewoodMom on February 21, 2013  12:59pm

(1) It is just offensive to me as an American that the legislative body of the City of New Haven would make the Pledge optional.

(2) I would think that the legislative body of the City would be addressing things like the budget, crime, development, et cetera.

(3) What is the point of a public hearing? If all three people who showed up testified in favor of retaining the Pledge of Allegiance why did they disregard that?

I am beyond disappointed with this. The New Haven Board of Alderman is just a disgrace. I am a proud American and I would think that lawmakers would be too.

posted by: RCguy on February 21, 2013  1:18pm

Divine Guidance

posted by: Billy on February 21, 2013  2:18pm

Good on the aldermen for avoiding the mandatory pledge of allegiance.  Now it’s time to get rid of Divine Guidance.  Separation of church and state means just that.  In a diverse city, which includes thousands of atheists and other “non-believers”, the board of aldermen needs to represent all of us, not just those who believe in the God we are supposed to be under.  Divine Guidance seems to be a vestige of the days when Christians held absolute sway in government, like swearing on a Bible in court or reading “In God We Trust” on our money. I elected my alderman because I think he can do the job on his own, without any kind of divine guidance.

posted by: Curious on February 21, 2013  3:01pm

Fairhavengal, when was the last time you said the pledge?  Do you start every day with it?

posted by: Walt on February 21, 2013  3:04pm

I’m with Ms Ahern and Fairhavengal

We shall see what this move really means when the Alders meet next

posted by: EdgewoodMom on February 21, 2013  4:01pm

I am not an elected official.

posted by: parejkoj on February 21, 2013  5:01pm

What purpose does reciting a pledge written by a socialist Baptist minister in 1892, and modified to contain a reference to the christian deity by the Knights of Columbus in the 1950s to distinguish us from the goddless communists (note the irony!), serve the New Haven board of aldermen?

posted by: Edward Francis on February 21, 2013  7:12pm

Perhaps many members of the Board of Aldermen don’t know the words to the Pledge of Allegiance.  I learned them decades ago while a student in New Haven Public Schools.  Over the years many of my classmates including myself served in the United States military where we continued to honor and respect the flag of America. We are one nation under God and as our currency states “In God We Trust”.

posted by: urban ed on February 22, 2013  8:33pm

The “Pledge of Allegiance” is nothing more than a loyalty oath, cynically perpetrated on children at its conception, and cynically modified by weak-kneed cowards (with no understanding of the constitutional prohibition of the establishment of religion)in the 1950s. The founders would find it abhorrent, as they did all loyalty oaths. Our brave members of the military have fought and do fight to keep us free from such fascistic constructions.

Worse….Children learn the ‘pledge’ by rote without a *clue* as to what it means. I had a friend who got to sixth grade wondering who the heck “Richard Stands” was (as in, “the republic for Richard Stands.”) Mr Stands must be Very Important, he figured! LOL.

This country is founded on the belief that respect for its government and its symbols is *earned*, NOT coerced. Any “pledge,” *forced* on the people in any context, is an anathema to that ideal.

Want to be a true patriot? Help a disabled vet. Better yet, volunteer to serve. Vote. Help teach the next generation. Pay your taxes. Give to charity. And refuse to perpetuate ill-conceived rote recitation of mindless BS. We as citizens of this great land are better than that.

posted by: Dean Moriarty on February 23, 2013  12:08am

Those who feel this is a good thing have a right to think that way, that’s one of the liberties the Pledge advocates.  I’m fine with them thinking that.  I just pray (I’m in my own house, so I’m assuming this is still legal) that the Alders realize that their constituents will remember a vote such as this at the polls. I certainly will.

(different point/question, couldn’t NHI indicate a (D) or (R) after the Alder’s name?  There may be folks unfamiliar or new to different Wards across the city, and it would inform the article that much better, I would think.  Just wondering).

posted by: Dean Moriarty on February 23, 2013  2:44am

urban ed, I have to wonder, isn’t your post the literal definition of cynicism?  A classical description: “Believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.”

Of course, your opinion is just as valued and respected as any other, but I have to say, in first grade at Woolsey School in New Haven, 1958, I DID understand what the Pledge was advocating.  Course, that’s just me, and I wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box, but just saying, I understood it even then, so I don’t think we should paint with broad strokes and just assume that “mindless recitation” applied to all of us.  That’s a big assumption, and unwarranted.

Finally, I believe every citizen of this country DOES have a duty to pledge an allegiance to it.  It affirms the very fact that we can all have the commonality to even be discussing this issue.
Just my thoughts, and I certainly respect yours.

posted by: Walt on February 23, 2013  7:27am

urban ed

You must realize that your declaration that the Pledge violates the Constitution is untrue and meaningless

Constitutionality can be determined only by the   Supreme Court

In, I believe the only Supreme Court action on this topic, the Supreme Court on June 13 2011, denied the appeal of the determination by a New Hampshire lower court,  backed by the Circuit Court of Appeals decision,  declaring the current Pledge NOT a violation of the separation of religion clause of the Constitution.

This action had the effect of declaring the Pledge ,Constitutional as it is, despite your false claim   otherwise

Dean Moriarty

Good idea except that in New Haven there are no “R’s”  in the Boad of Aldermen,  says memory,  All members are “D"s (Apologies if I missed an “R”.)

posted by: urban ed on February 23, 2013  8:20pm


Meaningless? Certainly. Untrue? Well….The Supreme Court made its decision and that makes it *a* truth that the pledge is de facto constitutional. I happen to disagree with that decision, based on my own reading of the constitution, but who am I? So, meaningless, as you said. Frankly, I’m less concerned with the religious entanglement aspect then I am with the coercion aspect, and the SCOTUS rulings on that not only back me up, but illustrate the fact that SCOTUS decisions are merely a majority opinion of nine humans, ruling as best they can based on their knowledge of the case at hand, in its particular time, given their general legal knowledge, and their biases. To wit:

“In 1940 the Supreme Court, in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, ruled that students in public schools, including the respondents in that case, Jehovah’s Witnesses who considered the flag salute to be idolatry, could be compelled to swear the Pledge. A rash of mob violence and intimidation against Jehovah’s Witnesses followed the ruling. In 1943 the Supreme Court reversed its decision, ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that public school students are not required to say the Pledge, concluding that “compulsory unification of opinion” violates the First Amendment.[19] In a later opinion, the Court held that students are also not required to stand for the Pledge.[20]”

It’s that “compulsory unification of opinion” thing that I have a real problem with, particularly when applied to children.

posted by: urban ed on February 23, 2013  8:23pm

Dean Moriarty:

(BTW, nice moniker….and thank you for the respectful tone you’ve introduced to the debate…and I admit my initial post was a little heated, since this issue is a pet peeve of mine): I’m glad you were sufficiently educated about what you were required to recite back in the ‘50s. My experience in the ‘70s was quite different, as I’ve alluded to. Your experience does indeed put the lie to my ‘mindless recitation’ assertion, at least for many folks, and I’m glad to hear it.

But I also know some of the history of oaths. They come to us from English and beyond to Germanic tradition. They were meant to be heartfelt,  and backed up with blood and/or one’s Honor. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to require them of children. The modern analog would be a contract, and we don’t allow minors to enter into contracts.

As to whether or not we have a *duty* to pledge allegiance to this country as citizens….I think this is right, as we have a duty to honor or express gratitude to any entity or person that enables to live, prosper, and thrive. I just think the pledge is a lousy vehicle for doing so. It was written by a magazine employee to sell magazines to kids and flags to schools for crimmeny’s sake!

There’s a Jewish proverb that says “He who prays aloud is of little faith.” That pretty much sums up how I feel about the pledge…any allegiance I express (and I do so frequently) is done silently at our national shrines, battlefields and cemeteries….or through deeds.

And Yes. I’m a cynic. Guilty as charged. I’ve seen too much injustice perpetrated by hypocrites who piously pledge their allegiance regularly, and therefore deem themselves patriots. It just leaves me cold.

And Walt’s right. No Rs on the BOA. Or any other letters than D.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on February 24, 2013  12:47am

Divine Guidance

Matthew 5:34-37

I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool: nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one”

posted by: Walt on February 24, 2013  1:23pm

urban ed

Inasmuch as I often disagree with Supreme Court rulings too, as re abortion and Obamacare,  I can not question your right to different   positions re   the Pledge, just your claim of its unconstitutionality

Admittedly I’m rather amazed that the Supremes did support the Knights of Columbus - initiated inclusion of “under God”  in the Pledge and effectively declare it constitutional, 

I had expected otherwise considering the usual liberal biases of the Court as it is now composed