Last week, Craig Conrad gave a motivational speech to students at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa, Colorado. He taught them about perseverance and working together. He told them they had “the power to make the right decisions.” All of that sounds perfectly fine.
But then it got weird.
“In my 60 years of living I have never seen our country as split and divided as it is right now,” Conrad said. “I worried about what will happen if we don’t bundle up and stick together.”
“When you sit down during The Pledge of Allegiance in our country,” said Conrad, “you take that bundle that is your classmates and you break it apart. The only reason you get to sit down in this county is because of the sacrifice people like [Iraq War veteran] Chance [Phelps] have made.”
Though the phrase “under God” wasn’t added to the pledge until 1954, Conrad warned the students that “there are forces in this country that want to remove ‘God’ from your pledge, off the back of your dollar bill and remove the nativity scene at Christmas.”
Conrad worked anti-atheist bigotry and conservative Christian conspiracy theories into a speech meant to empower students. Sitting down during the Pledge isn’t unpatriotic. It’s an exercise in patriotism. Conrad also thinks forcing his religion on everyone makes our country stronger, and that church/state separation groups defending the First Amendment are somehow traitors.
None of that belongs in a public school assembly. So what the hell were administrators thinking?
That’s what the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Christopher Line wants to know. The legal fellow sent a letter to the district yesterday:
It is inappropriate to take away instructional time from students to expose them to this type of religious message, regardless of any secular message the speaker is also promoting…
We request that the Alamosa School District ensure Mr. Conrad is not permitted to speak in its schools in the future, and that the District ensure future assemblies from outside groups do not contain an underlying proselytizing message or agenda. Please notify us in writing of the steps you take to remedy this matter.
No word from the District yet, but they’re on notice. If they allow this to happen again, it could result in a lawsuit. It shouldn’t take this warning for them to do what’s best for students, but they failed by inviting a right-wing evangelist to speak to students.
It’s not like they didn’t know any better. Conrad’s website includes a testimonial saying, “One little girl told me that The Unstoppable You evening presentation taught her why we say the pledge of allegiance and what it means. She was so inspired she told her entire first grade class her version of your pledge story.” Furthermore, a PDF of his curriculum at one school’s website even includes a lesson on the Pledge, where kids are told to write what the words “Under God” mean to them.
The only way district officials can say they didn’t know he would talk about this stuff is to admit they did no research on him ahead of time, which would also be problematic. It’s up to them to pick their poison.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Thanks to Brian for the link)