Mississippi wants to take away freedom of speech and replace it with nationalist laws.
In a hypernationalist move by Mississippi State Representative William Shirley, he has proposed an amendment to the 1972 Mississippi Code to make the regulations surrounding treatment of the flag in schools stricter.
The proposed amendment states that schools must have all teachers and students recite the pledge of allegiance within the first hour of school and dictates where flags must be placed around campus. Though there is an existing provision that states that “any student or teacher who objects to reciting the oath of allegiance shall be excused from participating without penalty,” language later on in the amendment completely cancels out this provision. It says,
“The failure of any school or school district to require the teachers under their control to have all pupils repeat the oath of allegiance…shall result in the school or district being assessed a fine for such violation. Any school district found not to be in compliance…shall be fined in an amount of $1,500 for each violation.”
This legislation challenges freedom of speech because it doesn’t leave any room for people to refuse to recite it. While the provision exists for show, in practice a fine can be dropped on any school that doesn’t comply with the law because it commands that “teachers under [administrative] control” and “all pupils” follow the rules.
In states and communities that have already enacted similar policies, disciplinary action is often threatened against those who choose not to comply. Teachers will be forced by lead administrators to recite the pledge, who will then intimidate students into reciting it as well in an attempt to avoid facing any fines.
Some have pointed out that making a show of nationalism increased in America after Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began sitting down during the national anthem as a sign of protest in support of people of color in America. The move received endless backlash and inspired many to defend their flag and the national anthem excessively.
In one report by the Sun Herald from Mississippi, a mother anonymously came forward to talk about how her son was threatened with disciplinary action for not standing and reciting the pledge, though he hadn’t done so for years. The high school student was reprimanded soon after Kaepernick began his silent protest, but his mother, who has said that they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, clarified that,
“He was doing this before any football player decided it meant something,” she said. “My son hasn’t stood for the Pledge since the fourth grade. None of my kids have.”
While the pledge of allegiance is cherished by many, those who don’t feel comfortable reciting it should not be forced to under circumstances. This type of law resembles the growing authoritarianism in the U.S. and, if passed, is a sign of things to come.
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