Where do I start?
Let’s begin with one of my all-time favorite Supreme Court opinions, written by Justice Jackson in the case of West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnett. It is a famous case, in which Jackson wrote that compelling a gesture of respect for the flag pledge violates the fundamental values of the First Amendment, which protects freedom of expression and thought from government intrusion.
The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure, but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. … [F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
Despite being a lawyer–or so I assume–the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, has consistently demonstrated ignorance of the constitution. He did so once again in this case, issuing a statement saying “School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the Pledge.”
Um…yes, they can.
India Landry, who is 17, was expelled from her school for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. That refusal was prompted by her considered belief that the government is not honoring the principles that flag is supposed to represent.
“I felt the flag doesn’t represent what it stands for, liberty & justice for all & I don’t feel what is going on in the country, so it was my choice to remain seated, silently.”
Forgive me if I view Paxton’s stirring–if embarrassingly uninformed–defense of the flag and the pledge as an effort to distract voters from his upcoming trial for fraud. According to the Dallas News,
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted for fraud nearly three years ago but is unlikely to go on trial before Election Day.
Paxton’s trials are on hold while the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decides whether the prosecutors on the case are being overpaid. The court went on summer recess Wednesday, and won’t hear any cases or issue any major opinions before the fall.
This means they won’t announce a decision in the pay case until September, at the earliest, which experts said will delay Paxton’s trial dates until after the Nov. 6 election — and probably into next year.
You might think that pending fraud charges would be politically damaging, but hey! This is Texas. Republicans in Texas are apparently even less concerned with moral lapses and ignorance of job requirements than Republicans elsewhere who still support Trump.
Paxton, a Republican, is running for a second term as the state’s top lawyer. Despite the indictments that have hung over him since months after his election in 2014, he has remained popular with conservative Republicans, raking in half a million dollars for his legal defense and boasting record fundraising numbers.
I guess he’s been too busy raising money and defending against fraud charges to research applicable legal precedents…