North Dakota bill would require schools, governing body to host Pledge of Allegiance recitation
The bill wouldn't force students, teachers and elected officials to say the pledge, but it gives them the opportunity and encourages them to do so, lawmaker said.
BISMARCK — A North Dakota lawmaker has proposed a bill that would make schools and government boards host a voluntary recitation for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Rep. Pat Heinert, R-Bismarck, introduced House Bill 1120 this week. The proposed legislation would require that school districts allow the Pledge of Allegiance to be said at the beginning of each school day.
I think it will benefit all of people of the United States and North Dakota because it will bring us back to a baseline of loving our country.
The North Dakota Legislature passed a law in 2021 that gives schools the authority to say the pledge. This bill would replace "may" authorize with "shall."
Any public governing body, including school boards, county commissions, city councils and the state industrial commission, also would have to start their meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“I think it will benefit all of people of the United States and North Dakota because it will bring us back to a baseline of loving our country,” Heinert said. “The Pledge of Allegiance is a gatherer of people who believe in what we stand for as a country and as a state.”
No one would be required to say the pledge. Language in the bill says it gives elected officials "the opportunity to participate in a voluntary recitation" of the pledge.
“We wanted to require it, but we can’t because there’s a Supreme Court ruling out of some eastern state,” Heinert said. “What it does is give them the opportunity to do it, but it encourages them to do it before any government meeting.”
In the 1943 case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled schools can’t force children in public schools to salute the American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance.
North Dakota law also says "a student may not be required to recite the pledge."
The bill comes after the Fargo Public School Board voted on Aug. 9 to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance. The move sparked a public outcry both locally and nationally.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum also chimed in by saying he wanted to help craft a bill that would give elected officials and students the “opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and express support for the American ideals upon which our country was founded.” Heinert was one of four legislators who agreed to collaborate with Burgum's office to draft the legislation.
After receiving threatening messages, Fargo school board members voted 8-1 during an Aug. 18 special meeting to resume saying the pledge.
Heinert said the Fargo controversy didn’t influence his decision to introduce his bill.
“I was already thinking about it prior to that,” he said.
Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki confirmed his office worked with Heinert on the concept of the bill. The governor generally doesn't comment on bills before they reach his desk, Nowatzki said.
“That being said, as you know from our emails exchanged in August, he has been clear in his position that students in public schools, along with elected governing bodies and those who attend their meetings, should have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance," Nowatzki said.
Heinert said he feels the bill will garner a lot of support, adding it has already attracted a lot of attention.
“I’m assuming it is going to pass and pass pretty solidly,” he said.
When asked how the bill would be enforced and what would happen if a governing board or school doesn’t give board members, teachers or students the opportunity to say the pledge, Heinert said all the state likely could do is issue a sanction that asks the law be followed.