gavel

The way Rep. John Fillmore sees it, young children need to hear and say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning at school.

He convinced Republican members of the House Government and Elections Committee last week to mandate it for anyone in gradess K-4.

The Apache Junction Republican said, “I think that it’s important that we have the kids learn what these words mean and drummed into their heads. America is a country where people are still dying to come to and they put their lives at risk to come here.’’

Students in grades 5-12 would have no pledge requirement. Instead, Fillmore’s HB 2060 would require at least a minute a day for students to “engage and quiet reflection and moral reasoning.’’

Fillmore said he wants that language rather than simply a moment of silence.

“Sometimes the moment of silence is ‘shut up and keep quiet’ vs. ‘think about what is good for society or yourself or your family, and for your parents and for your country and community,’ ‘’ he said. “Even if they only think about what they’re facing that day or the trials and tribulations in their little lives, I think (for) them to have that ability to have some kind of reasoning is a good thing.’’

Fillmore pointed out his measure does permit parents to excuse their children from the requirement. 

Tory Roberg, lobbyist for the Secular Coalition of Arizona, suggested anything that pressures students to recite the pledge, with its language about the county being “one nation under God,’’ could be illegal religious coercion.

Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, said he was “amazed’’ at how many people had registered at the legislative web site as opposed to the measure.

Payne pointed out that lawmakers begin each session with the same pledge. “I just don’t get it,’’ he said. “I thought we were in America.’’

In the only case addressing this, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1985 that an Alabama law mandating a moment of silence was unconstitutional. 

The 7-6 vote sends the measure to the full House.