Fargo school board scraps Pledge of Allegiance over ‘under God’ in the name of diversity

Why did a North Dakota school board drop the Pledge of Allegiance six months after voting to start each meeting with it? 

Because the phrase “under God” does not align with Fargo Public Schools’ diversity, equity and inclusion values. 

That was the argument of board member Seth Holden, who initiated the reversal last month by getting the issue back on the agenda, according to Fargo’s The Forum. He opposed the original decision to recite the Pledge in March, and in meetings since that time he has not recited it.

The March motion to recite the Pledge was made by former board member David Paulson, and passed 6-2. Holden and board member Jim Johnson were the only two to vote against it at the time. 

Paulson spoke in favor of the Pledge Tuesday as a member of the community, saying his original motion as a board member came after learning that many local governments and other school boards recite it. 

“We are misinterpreting the Pledge of Allegiance,” Paulson argued at this week’s meeting. “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.” 

Holden’s hang-up is the phrase “under God,” which he feels doesn’t fit the schools’ diversity agenda.  

“The text is clearly referring to the Judeo-Christian god (sic) 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 FPS.” 

Ultimately the board voted 7-2 to no longer recite the Pledge of Allegiance, with board members Nikkie Gullickson and Robin Nelson voting to keep it. 

“I thought this would be a no-brainer. I’ve recited this from kindergarten to God knows when,” said Gullickson of the original March motion, before clarifying, “I am not willing to put this into a policy for disciplinary action for someone who does not follow those beliefs.” 

And while Nelson acknowledged the issue has created conflict in the community, she defended the board’s right to recite the Pledge. 

For board members who walked back their previous votes in favor of the Pledge, concerns over the division it has caused were decisive. 

“I’m just not sure that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is a useful way to begin every one of our board meetings,” Board President Tracy Newman said. “I would much prefer that we open our meetings with a shared statement of purpose that would bring us all together to do the work of the board.”