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Arizona Bills Require Public School Students To Recite Loyalty Oaths

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"Arizona Bills Require Public School Students To Recite Loyalty Oaths"

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Public high school students in Arizona will have to “recite an oath supporting the U.S. Constitution” to receive a graduation diploma, if a new bill introduced in the new session of the state legislature is passed and signed into law. The measure, House Bill 2467, was offered by Rep. Bob Thorpe (R), a freshman tea party members who also backs a bill preventing state enforcement of federally enacted gun safety laws. Here is the text of HB 2467:

As written, the bill does not exempt atheist students or those of different faiths from the requirement, though Thorpe has pledged to amend the measure. “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Arizona Republic. “Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”

A separate measure introduced by Thorpe’s colleague would also “require all students in first through 12th grades” “to say the pledge of allegiance each day.” Currently, “schools must set aside time for the pledge each day, but students may choose whether to participate.”

Constitutional experts warn that both proposals are unconstitutional. As American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona Public Policy Director Anjali Abraham explained, “You can’t require students to attend school … and then require them to either pledge allegiance to the flag or swear this loyalty oath in order to graduate. It’s a violation of the First Amendment.”

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