The president of Santa Barbara City College’s board of trustees discontinued the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings because he believed it symbolized anti-immigrant sentiment.
The president, Robert Miller, told a former professor that his allegiance was to the Constitution, not to a “physical object” and that the Pledge’s history was “steeped in expressions of nativism and white nationalism,” Campus Reform reported on Monday.
He pointed to former Baptist minister Francis Bellamy, who wrote the Pledge “in reaction to the increasing numbers of immigrants entering the United States”:
“In support of the Pledge, Mr. Bellamy expressed concern about ‘the races which we cannot assimilate without a lowering of our racial standard.’ As one commentator noted, “[w]hile the language contained in the pledge is not overtly nativist or xenophobic, the spirit that animated its creation was steeped in this sort of bigotry […] Expressions of support for the Pledge of Allegiance in 1890 sound eerily similar to the ugly racist, anti-immigrant expressions we hear today.”
Miller, like many others, also objected to the Pledge’s reference to God. “The First Amendment not only protects freedom of speech and religion [but] it also expressly prohibits laws that establish a religion,” he said.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has expressly extended those rights to those who express no belief in God,” he added. “Thus, I disagree with the 1955 act of Congress to add this phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance.”
This wasn’t the first time that a college has made a controversial decision regarding the American flag. As IJR previously noted, the University of Kansas flew a desecrated American flag. Stanford University also rejected its College Republicans chapter’s logo because it contained the American flag.
Miller’s comments came alongside two fiery debates in the United States — standing for the national anthem at football games and crafting the nation’s immigration policy.
As IJR repeatedly noted, President Donald Trump blasted NFL players for disrespecting the flag by kneeling during the national anthem at games.
The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
The players’ complaints similarly had a racial context but they reportedly wanted to use the occasion to protest systemic racism rather than the anthem or flag themselves.