Madison School Board Members React to Pledge Ruling

By: Natalie Swaby
By: Natalie Swaby

Wednesday afternoon, U.S District Judge Lawrence Karlton ruled that saying the pledge in public schools is unconstitutional because the reference to "under God" violates school children's right to be "free from a coercive requirement to affirm God."

This latest ruling reminds some in Madison about the city's own past controversy over the pledge and public schools, even though it happened here almost four years ago.

"For me the motivation in 2001 was that students would feel coerced in to participating in something that they did not want to participate in," says School Board Member Bill Keys. "What I had suggested simply is that we ought to have the National Anthem everyday played without words, and I made no comment about the Pledge of Allegiance."

School Board President Carol Cartesen says, "it was perceived as the board had somehow banned the pledge."

And it created a fire storm of frenzy in the Fall of 2001, shortly after September 11th.

Madison Metropolitan School District Superintendent, Art Rainwater says, "certainly, it was controversial at the time, and during the short period of time that it was in the national news it got an awful lot of publicity and awful lot of controversy."

Controversy that concluded with schools following Wisconsin state law which requires class rooms to either offer the Pledge of Allegiance or the National Anthem during the school day. And in Madison it comes daily with this disclaimer: "It is your right to participate or not participate," says Carstensen.

Both school board members NBC 15 spoke with do not anticipate dealing with this issue again on the local level. As for today's decision, a party to the case has already announced that they will appeal.

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