The Dilemma: Few things seem as quintessentially American as the Pledge of Allegiance. Formally adopted by Congress during World War II (and amended in 1954 to include the words “under God”), the pledge has long been a fixture of civic gatherings, school assemblies and Scout meetings. It has also been a source of controversy, perhaps most notably when the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that forcing Jehovah’s Witnesses to recite it in school would be a violation of their religious beliefs.
The pledge is also a source of controversy in Troop 96, where a Life Scout has begun refusing to recite it, calling it meaningless because, he says, “the United States has an inconsistent record of providing liberty and justice for all.” When the troop recites the pledge, he now stands without saluting or saying a word.
The Scoutmaster has ignored this behavior but now says the Scout won’t be allowed to run for senior patrol leader. His argument: Leaders must set a good example, which the boy isn’t doing.
After reading the scenario with your Scouts, discuss these questions about the Pledge of Allegiance and Scouting:
- Should Scouts be required to say the pledge? Why or why not?
- If you said yes, should exceptions be made for religious reasons? Why or why not?
- If you said yes, should exceptions be made for Scouts who aren’t citizens, such as the children of recent immigrants or foreign nationals? Why or why not?
- If you said yes, should other exceptions be made? What are those exceptions?
- Does saying the pledge demonstrate a Scout’s duty to his country? Does not saying it violate that duty? Explain your answer.
- Next, discuss these questions about the Scout’s actions:
- How is he being trustworthy, loyal and obedient by his actions? How is he violating those points of the Scout Law?
- Would you judge his actions differently if he made a scene during the pledge (such as by turning his back on the flag or reciting song lyrics instead)? Why or why not?
- Would you judge his actions differently if he were encouraging other Scouts to join his silent protest? Why or why not?
- Do you agree with the Scoutmaster that the boy should not be allowed to run for senior patrol leader? Why or why not?
Finally, have the Scouts decide what course of action the troop should take. Discuss these questions:
- How is that solution fair to the troop?
- How is that solution fair to the Scout?
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