The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a First Amendment challenge to a Florida law that says students must get a parent's permission to get out of a daily classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
But the court ruled that a part of the law requiring all "civilians" to stand during the pledge in schools is unconstitutional.
Christine Frazier had brought suit on behalf of her son, Cameron, in 2005, when her son was in the 11th grade. A federal district judge agreed that the rule "robs the student of the right to make an independent decision whether to say the pledge."
On appeal, 11th Circuit Chief Judge J.L. Edmondson, Senior Judge James C. Hill and visiting 9th Circuit Senior Judge Arthur L. Alarcón noted that the U.S. Supreme Court held over a half a century ago that local government authorities can't compel a salute to the flag.
But the panel said the Florida law protects parents' constitutional rights to bring up their children as they see fit. "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," the panel said Wednesday.
The panel warned that it considered only Frazier's challenge to the law on its face and not whether it might be applied constitutionally to any particular student.
On the question of standing during the pledge, the state acknowledged that students have a right to remain seated but had urged the court to read the requirement as applicable only to those students who don't get a parent's permission to not say the pledge. The 11th Circuit panel said that interpretation was too "improbable."
"This is a victory for Cameron Frazier," said Randall C. Marshall, ACLU of Florida Legal Director, about the question of standing for the pledge. Scott D. Makar, the solicitor general of Florida, said no decision had been made whether to appeal that part of the case.