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Just in time for the holiday, a traditional American fight over a traditional American symbol: our flag and the pledge of allegiance we say, or in this case, don't say to it. In Massachusetts, rugged individualist Sean Harrington was alarmed to find as a freshman at Arlington High School that there were no flags in the classrooms and no allegiance pledged.
FOXNews reports that Harrington has made it the cause of his young life to get the flags and pledge re-instated in his high school. Three years later, he has succeed in getting the flags back in the classroom, but no pledge yet. Harrington gave the school authorities a petition in support of the pledge with the signatures of 700 people, and including letters of support from members of Congress such as Sen. John Kerry, (D-Mass.), and Sen. Joe Lieberman, (I-Conn.).
However, when the matter was put to a vote before the Arlington school committee, it died on a 3-3 tie. "I was really heartbroken," Harrington told FOX News Radio. "It's hard to think that something so traditional in American society was turned down." It should be noted that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seems more in agreement with this outlook than not. In a recent case, they declined to find the recitation of the pledge violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
School committee members seemed wary of returning to the days when "voluntary" expressions of belief or allegiance could still result in some kid who didn't agree with the majority being pummeled at recess. Committee member Leba Heigham was one of those who voted no. "Patriotism is a very personal thing for all of us, but I do not think it is in the school committee's best interest to mandate that any of our employees recite the pledge," she told local paper the Arlington Patch.
Sean Harrington says he will fight on, despite his temporary failure. But did he really fail? He used the system set up to respect his individual voice to make his opinion known, to try to change the minds of those in his community, to have the outcome put to a open vote. These are exactly the kind of actions the flag is a symbol of. And maybe that is even more important than the symbol itself.
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