The Board of Education in Fargo, North Dakota, voted 7-2 to stop reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before its biweekly meetings.
The reasoning? Board Vice President Seth Holden said the phrase “under God” doesn’t align with the school district’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Given that the word ‘God’ in the text of the Pledge of Allegiance is capitalized,” Holden said, “the text is clearly referring to the Judeo-Christian god and therefore, it does not include any other face such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism—all of which are practiced by our staff and students at [Fargo Public Schools].”
Just five months ago, the board had passed a motion to begin each meeting by saying the pledge. But last month, Holden, an atheist, told the Governance Committee that another vote should be held to remove the previously passed motion.
“The statement that we are ‘one nation under God,’ … is simply an untrue statement,” he argued. “We are one nation under many or no gods.”
Former board member David Paulson, who proposed the motion last March to recite the pledge before meetings, said the board’s decision to rescind the motion is a result of misinterpreting the pledge.
“The pledge isn’t a show of our patriotism, it’s an affirmation of our commitment and our loyalty to the greater cause, and that greater cause is freedom,” he said.
Robin Nelson, one of the two board members who voted to keep the pledge, spoke out against Holden’s position during the Aug. 9 board meeting. She argued that the discussion was a “complete distraction” and that the board’s job is to focus on the education of the students.
“I would respectfully ask that you just don’t participate, but that you don’t deny me that right,” she told Holden.
Following the vote, she told media outlets that the new motion to stop reciting the pledge has created a lot of unwanted strife within the community—especially ahead of the new school year.
During a performance in West Fargo Aug. 11, the country music duo Big and Rich asked the audience to recite the pledge and referenced the controversy.
“I hope that some real mothers and daddies and aunts and uncles and grandpas and grandmas step up and start taking over those local spaces of leadership,” the musicians said. “Take it away from them. They’ve got no business up in this town.”