By Ashley Grant
May 22, 2002
ST. PAUL (AP) - Gov. Jesse Ventura on Wednesday vetoed a bill requiring public school students to say the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week, saying patriotism should come from the heart, not a government mandate.
Ventura had hinted he would veto the bill, saying on several occasions he has seen no problem with patriotism in the United States, particularly after Sept. 11. And he compared a Pledge requirement to the indoctrination practiced by the Nazis and the Taliban.
"I am vetoing this bill because I believe patriotism comes from the heart," Ventura said in his veto message. "Patriotism is voluntary. It is a feeling of loyalty and allegiance that is the result of knowledge and belief. A patriot shows their patriotism through their actions, by their choice."
The measure was a compromise that easily passed both the House and Senate. But the Legislature has adjourned and cannot override the veto unless Ventura convenes a special session for some other purpose, which is seen as unlikely.
A Senate provision would have required teachers to tell students who don't want to participate that they don't have to. Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul, argued that the statement would have helped prevent nonparticipating students from being branded as unpatriotic.
But House negotiators said such a declaration would undermine the pledge's importance and set a bad precedent for any other classroom directive, and the provision was dropped.
Instead, the vetoed bill would have directed school districts to inform students of their rights in a student handbook or school policy guide.
School boards would have had the power to opt out of requiring the weekly recitation via annual votes.
Most schools already offer the pledge. A Minnesota School Boards Association survey last year found that 169 of the 230 districts responding said that their students say the pledge with some regularity.
Half the states now require the pledge as part of the school day, and half a dozen more recommend it, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. This year, Legislatures in several states were considering making the oath mandatory. It wasn't immediately clear how many had passed such requirements.