DES MOINES, Iowa (KMTV) – A bill that would require schools in Iowa to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance each school day overwhelmingly passed in the Iowa House this week.
The bill passed by a 91-3 margin, with six lawmakers absent.
The measure, which applies to grades 1-12, would also require schools to display the United States flag in the classroom during the recitation.
“We don’t pledge our allegiance to a government. We don’t pledge our allegiance to a person or leader,” said Rep. Carter Nordman, a Republican supporter of the bill. “We pledge our loyalty to an idea, the American idea.”
Non-public schools could opt-out if reciting the Pledge of Allegiance conflicts with their religious beliefs.
Students would also be able to opt-out. A 1943 Supreme Court ruling protects students from being forced to salute the American Flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance in public school.
Iowa is one of a few states that doesn’t have language in its code regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We’ve been doing a disservice to our students, to our state and to our country,” Nordman said. “I think the bill would be a good step forward in beginning to provide that.”
Rep. Christina Bohannan, a Democrat, said she had some initial concerns about the bill. She thought there were other issues that matter more to Iowans, such as coronavirus relief, and said that some schools already offer the Pledge of Allegiance.
At the end of the day, Bohannan eventually supported the measure, saying the Pledge of the Allegiance gives students a chance to think critically about what those words mean.
“Our kids might ask whether our republic can last when many of our leaders refuse to denounce those who subvert our democracy,” she said. “They might ask how can we be one nation indivisible if those in power pass election laws to suppress the votes of their fellow Americans. They might ask whether we have liberty and justice for all if transgender people are denied their liberties and Black Iowans are more than 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.”
Rep. Mary Lynn Wolfe, a Democrat, voted against the bill. She said she hasn't heard any demand for this kind of bill from her constituents, and was worried about micromanaging.
"My no vote is not a no vote on the Pledge of Allegiance. I say it every morning in this chamber," Wolfe said. "My no vote on this bill is just about another bill that seeks to micromanage a local government, in this case our school districts."
Wolfe added she hopes schools can find the time to incorporate discussion about the pledge, its origins, and the concerns some people have about it.
"That's a lot of time, energy and resources that will have to be devoted to those discussions," Wolfe said. "I hope we provide our schools, in some bill, with a little additional time, money, whatever, so they can have those discussions."
The two other no votes came from Rep. Sharon Steckman and Rep. Bruce Hunter, both Democrats.
Nordman said the Pledge of Allegiance can show what makes America great.
“What makes this country so great is that we can be on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. We can disagree, we can have those debates,” Nordman said. “But at the end of the day, we know we're united under one flag and that's why I believe the Pledge of Allegiance is so important."
The bill now heads to the Iowa Senate.