10-year-old refuses pledge of allegiance until gays have equal rights

    On Monday morning, CNN had this amazing segment about Will Phillips, a 10-year-old boy in Arkansas, who is refusing to say the pledge of allegiance due to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

    Why, in particular, did he decide to take this stand?

    “There really isn’t liberty and justice for all,” Phillips told host John Roberts. “Gays and lesbians can’t marry. There’s still a lot of racism and sexism in the world.”

    Phillips also mentioned wanting to be a lawyer when he grows up, and the fact that he already has a lot of friends who are gay.

    “I think they should have the rights all people should,” he continued. “And I’m not going to swear that they do,” until it’s a reality.

    It’s clear after watching the boy that he is brilliant. In fact, I found his eloquence almost hard to believe.  What is more remarkable, however, is his morality and willingness to take such a bold move for his convictions at his young age. His parents should be proud.

    This story actually reminded me of one of the first times I addressed a grade school class about nonviolence.

    Several years ago, I was invited by one of my best friends to talk with his students at a Catholic school on the south side of Chicago.

    I got there early, and at the spur of the moment, decided to remain sitting when the class stood for the pledge. I then began by explaining why I did this. I argued that if you are really a Christian, you cannot pledge allegiance to any flag or country. Our allegiance is to a different kingdom. We obey a higher law. The country for which our flag stands, I explained, has done and continues to do some terrible things that I could not vouch for and that were simply contrary to Jesus’ teachings.

    At the time, I don’t remember getting any serious reaction. However, my friend told me that for the rest of the year one of his students, who I stayed in touch with after my visit, did not say the pledge for the rest of the year.

    And even though it was just one student, I was thrilled. That’s where it starts.

    The world would truly be in better hands if there were only more children – and adults, for that matter – with such sensibilities.

    Recent Stories

    • Feature

    Why activism needs to be part of any meaningful climate education

    October 12, 2021

    Simply teaching kids about the science of the climate crisis isn’t enough. To prevent feelings of disempowerment, they need to see how they can make a meaningful impact.

    • Feature

    ‘You only get what you’re organized to take’ — lessons from the National Union of the Homeless

    October 8, 2021

    As the pandemic continues to devastate America’s poorest, coalitions of unhoused people are finding inspiration in the powerful history of homeless organizing.

    • Analysis

    Why the far right’s use of nonviolent action should be questioned

    October 5, 2021

    Research shows why right-wing actors trying to reap the tactical benefits of nonviolent action often fail to meet its standards.