Part of Florida Pledge of Allegiance law unconstitutional

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The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Wednesday upheld part of a Florida law that requires students in grades kindergarten through 12 to obtain parental permission before they can be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The court held that another provision requiring all students to stand, even if excused from reciting the Pledge, violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and is therefore not enforceable. Stressing that the case involved the protection of parental rights rather than those of children, the court stated:

[T]he refusal of students to participate in the Pledge -- unless their parents consent -- hinders their parents' fundamental right to control their children's upbringing. The rights of students and the rights of parents -- two different sets of persons whose opinions can often clash -- are the subject of a legislative balance in the statute before us. The State, in restricting the student's freedom of speech, advances the protection of the constitutional rights of parents: an interest which the State may lawfully protect.

In June 2006, a federal district court struck down the Florida law as unconstitutional, citing West Virginia v. Barnette, a 1943 United States Supreme Court decision holding that students have a constitutional right not to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In the 2004 Supreme Court case Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow, three concurring justices affirmed the constitutionality of public-school teachers leading the Pledge of Allegiance in their classrooms.

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