Lets say my body reverted back to the to match my mental maturity level and I became a kid again. During school when everyone stands up to say the pledge of allegiance I proudly declare "I pledge allegiance to the flag .... One nation under Satan Indivisible ... etc"

I suspect some of my teachers may not approve of my modification of the pledge, but would the school be able to penalize me for my variation of the standard pledge if I argue it's in keeping with my religious beliefs?

We know the school cannot compel me to say the pledge of allegiance, but in this example I would be willingly saying a variant of the pledge. On the other hand I probably couldn't stand up during the pledge of allegiance and start shouting random gibberish since that would be disruptive behavior which schools are free to prevent. My pledging to Satan would likely also be construed as potentially disruptive behavior, but I would presume that would not outweigh the protection of speech/religion afforded by the 1st amendment?

If I wouldn't get protection of religion on the grounds that a belief in Satan isn't a 'firmly held belief' of mine you could always replace Satan in this example with Allah, Jehovah, Shiva, Odin, Flying Spaghetti Monster etc.

1 Answer 1


Your school can compel you to pray, if it is a private school. I assume you are asking about a government school. As a limited public forum, the school can limit content (can forbid discussion of a topic), but cannot limit viewpoint (cannot allow only pro-abortion speech while prohibiting anti-abortion speech). If they allow the Godly pledge, they must allow the Satanic pledge (as well as allowing silence). See Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98. "The power to so restrict speech, however, is not without limits. The restriction must not discriminate against speech based on viewpoint, and must be reasonable in light of the forum's purpose".

While it is true that schools are allowed to limit disruptive behavior, declaring "disruption!" does not automatically suspend the First Amendment. A reasonable person would not find find replacing a few word to be a disruption. If you scream "Satan!", that is disruptive, if you just say "Satan" instead of "God", that is not a disruption.

  • Good News Club v Milford Central School was about use of school grounds when school was not in session. While the school is in session the need to control for order allows teachers to restrict speech, ie keep me from talking about my favorite video game while a teacher is teaching. So playing devils advocate could the school argue that my disruption to the routine by intentionally breaking from the standard pledge and distracting other students was a disruption to school and they could act in that regard during school hours even if they couldn't prevent me from saying the pledge after hours
    – dsollen
    Oct 16, 2020 at 21:52
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    Actually see Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District. It is a SCOTUS case about the balance between disruption and free speech by students during school. Oct 16, 2020 at 22:12
  • Schools are limited public forums? Citation, please. Also, why are we analyzing this as a free-speech issue instead of a free-exercise issue?
    – bdb484
    Oct 17, 2020 at 3:28
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    Good News Club.
    – user6726
    Oct 17, 2020 at 4:43
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    @Trish yes, arm bands to protest the the war in Vietnam Oct 17, 2020 at 16:37

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