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Pledge of Allegiance recited at Fargo School Board meeting, with at least one notable exception

The recitation of the pledge was largely uneventful Tuesday, though a member of the public referenced the board's nonunanimous vote during brief remarks at the start of the meeting.

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Fargo School Board member Seth Holden, left, declines to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as the Fargo school district's Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Color Guard presents colors at the Tuesday, April 12, 2022, meeting of the board.
Michael Vosburg / The Forum
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FARGO — The Fargo Board of Education began its Tuesday night meeting April 12 with the Pledge of Allegiance, the first time it had done so since establishing the practice during a recent meeting, where the board voted 6-2 to adopt the practice.

The two board members who voted "no" on the earlier pledge motion — Seth Holden and Jim Johnson — stood for the pledge Tuesday night, with Holden remaining silent as the words of the pledge were recited by board members and people in the audience.

The occasion was marked by a presentation of colors by high school students who are members of the school district's Air Force Junior ROTC program.

The recitation of the pledge was largely uneventful Tuesday, though a member of the public referenced the board's nonunanimous vote during brief remarks at the start of the meeting.

Following Tuesday's meeting, Holden confirmed he did not recite the pledge, largely for the reasons he gave during earlier debate on the matter.

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In his earlier remarks, Holden talked at length about his reasons for not backing the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of meetings.

“Will this act cause the board to do better work? I would answer no,” said Holden. “I would argue that our work might not get better because of the divisiveness this could create because of not every person not wanting to partake in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Holden said his opposition was based on several things, including his view that not everyone in the country enjoys liberty and justice, and he said Tuesday that the religious connotations the pledge contains could be alienating to some members of the community, depending on their personal beliefs.

He said that is an issue because the district has committed itself to being inclusive.

“If I don't want to do this Pledge of Allegiance at every single board meeting it’s not because I don’t have allegiance to my country, it’s not because I don't love my country, it’s because there are words in the Pledge of Allegiance that I don’t think are true,” Holden said during previous discussions.

Johnson, who sided with Holden when the vote was taken on whether or not to adopt the pledge as a way to start board meetings, said at the time: “It leads to a possible situation in the future that could create issues for the board as opposed to making our work easier."

“I’m an Eagle Boy Scout, so the Pledge of Allegiance is near and dear to my heart. I’m an elder in a Presbyterian church, so the Lord and Savior is near and dear to my heart,” added Johnson, who said his biggest problem with the pledge had to do with a wording change in the 1950s to include a reference to God, "making it, quite frankly, a Judeo-Christian pledge rather than a pledge to a nation."

At the time the board voted to start meetings with the pledge, a number of board members said they saw no problem with it.

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There are no penalties for anyone who does not recite the pledge at the start of school board meetings.

Board Vice President Robin Nelson was among several board members who thanked the students who presented flags during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Col. Steven Muhs, who directed the students, said the Fargo Air Force Junior ROTC program is one of two such programs in the state, with the other located in Minot.

Muhs added that there are two Army Junior ROTC programs in the state, one located in Grand Forks and the other in Devils Lake.

He said contrary to popular belief, very few students who take part in junior ROTC programs ever enter the military.

Muhs said the main goal of the program is to make better citizens for the country.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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