Pawtucket (RI) City Council Member Halts Meeting Until Man Stands Up for Pledge of Allegiance

At last week’s meeting of the Pawtucket City Council in Rhode Island, during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, Councilor Mark Wildenhain wouldn’t start saying it until everybody stood up.

And Joe Hart wasn’t standing up.

Hart, a Cumberland resident who said he’s planning to move to Pawtucket, has been coming to council meetings for many months and said he has never stood up for the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s not that he hates his country or is looking to disrespect it, said Hart, but the way he sees it, “when we’re all standing up for the pledge, we’re agreeing that we’re on the same page.”

In his view, said Hart, the council doesn’t respect the pledge, and he doesn’t want to stand up with people he feels don’t even believe in what they’re saying.

Whatever his reason, there’s absolutely no reason to publicly shame Hart for not standing when there’s no rule that says he has to. But following pressure from his friends, Hart begrudgingly stood up.

After the meeting, Hart approached Council President David Moran to ask if everyone had to stand up during the Pledge. The response? Let me ask our attorney.

I’m no attorney, but the answer is simple: No. No one has to stand for the Pledge. Ever.

Wildenhain, however, still hasn’t figured this out:

This whole situation may just be a “big joke” to Hart, said Wildenhain, but he puts it on par with burning a flag. Just like you don’t have a right to burn a flag, he said, he doesn’t believe you have a right to skip saluting it.

Umm… you *do* have the right to burn the flag. And you do get to skip saluting it, too. The flag is a symbol. It means whatever you want it to mean. And not everyone has to revere it the same way.

Hart says he’ll keep attending the meetings and he won’t be standing for the Pledge when the time comes.

(Image via Jesus V on Flickr. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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