Fargo school board rejects Pledge of Allegiance

The Fargo School Board voted Tuesday 7-2 to stop saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of its school board meetings, ruling that it didn’t align with the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion priorities.

“The board reciting the Pledge runs counter to our district’s philosophy,” said board vice president Seth Holden, who introduced the motion to rescind recitation.

“Given that the word ‘God’ in the text of the Pledge of Allegiance is capitalized…the text is clearly referring to the Judeo-Christian God, and therefore it does not include any other faiths such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism.”

Holden stated that the “exclusion” of these faiths “automatically makes the Pledge of Allegiance a non-inclusionary act,” which “runs counter to our philosophy at FPS” [Fargo Public Schools].

Holden continued by stating that “there is text within the Pledge of Allegiance that is just simply not true,” calling attention to the lines “one nation under God” and “one nation with liberty and justice for all.”

The statement that we are “one nation under God” is the Judeo-Christian God…is simply an untrue statement. We are one nation under many or no gods.

It is also an indisputable fact, and it’s a fact that hopefully we all can agree on, that not all U.S. citizens have liberty and justice, which is stated in the Pledge, therefore, making the line “one nation with liberty and justice for all” an untrue statement.

Holden added that he is “aware what the Pledge of Allegiance means” for many, but that it is also a “constant reminder of a lack of liberty and a lack of justice and constant feeling of exclusion.”

Board member Robin Nelson voted to keep saying the Pledge of Allegiance, pointing out that “nobody is forcing you to say anything…but please don’t deny me that right.”

Nelson called the discussion a “distraction,” and that the board needs to “focus on our kids and our education.”

School board president Dr. Tracie Newman voted against reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, stating that because the issue is “politically charged and divisive” she wasn’t sure it is a “useful way to begin every one of our board meetings.”

The board has gone back and forth on reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at board meetings; recitation in the Fargo public school district will continue.

According to state assessment data cited in the district’s 2020-21 Annual Report, more than half of students in grades 3-7 in Fargo Public Schools are not performing at grade level in math and reading — and in some cases, way more than half. Over 40 percent of eighth graders are not proficient in reading, and 50 percent of eighth graders can’t do math at grade level.

A recent Thinking Minnesota Poll found an overwhelming plurality (41 percent) of respondents want school leaders to prioritize academic excellence in education.

UPDATE: Country music duo Big & Rich called out the Fargo School Board for their actions at their concert in West Fargo last night (Aug. 11), leading their fans in a rousing rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance before calling the board a “commie school board.”