NJ considers law requiring Pledge of Allegiance before public meetings
All public meetings in New Jersey might soon be required to open with a Pledge of Allegiance under a proposal now one vote from reaching Gov. Chris Christie’s desk.
The Assembly State and Local Government Committee gave its unanimous endorsement Thursday to a bill, S308/A777, already passed 35-0 by the full Senate two months ago.
Assemblyman Bob Andrzejczak, D-Cape May, said the bill would require an American flag to be displayed at any state or local meetings covered by the Open Public Meetings Act and to start the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We should be proud of our country and the history, heritage, everything going along with it, including the men and women who fought and died for our flag to be able to give us the opportunity to even have public meetings here in the state,” Andrzejczak said.
“Not saying that everybody has to, but at least be able to have the pledge recited at the meeting,” said Andrzejczak. “So if by any means you disagree and you want to remain seated, well, that’s your choice. But out of respect, everybody else should be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris, another primary sponsor of the bill, said it could be helpful to begin government meetings with the pledge.
“It’s a way to unify a community and a state around a very simple and important concept, that is: We’re all Americans. We’re all there to do the public business. And I think that small reminder will help people remember why we gather and what our form of government is all about,” Webber said.
State law currently requires an American flag in every classroom in public schools and for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day.
Sponsors said most government meetings already feature the flag and pledge, though Andrzejczak said “some areas just overlook it altogether.” He wasn’t specific about where.
The bill sailed through Thursday without discussion, let alone criticism.
“We have not heard any opposition really,” Andrzejczak said. “I don’t think there would be any opposition. I think if anybody were to oppose it, it would be silly.”
“People are generally supportive of it. I mean, it’s not the end-all, be-all bill certainly, but I think it’s a small but important measure that will just improve the tone and tenor of public meetings hopefully,” Webber said.
“When everybody – Democrat, Republican, independent – stands up at the beginning of a meeting, pledges allegiance to the same flag, reminds themselves why they’re there, hopefully that goes a little bit of way to making the dialogue a little better in public meetings and improve the public service that people are doing there,” he said.
Separately, the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee advanced legislation that would designate "September 11 Remembrance Day" in New Jersey each year, to mark the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in which more than 700 New Jersey residents were killed.
The bill would encourage local governments and organizations to hold public ceremonies at which the names of local residents killed on 9/11 would be read. Flags would be flown at half-staff, and public schools would observe a one-minute period of silence at 10 a.m.
That bill, currently A4345/S1273, was first introduced in 2006 but hasn't made it into law. The furthest it got was approval by the full Senate in 2008.
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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at email@example.com