WINTER GARDEN, Fl. (CNN) – “You may please stand for the Pledge.”
Those words led to a confrontation during a meeting of a city commission in Florida when a first-amendment rights activist squared off with the three-term mayor of the small central Florida city.
“Wait a minute. We are waiting for everyone to rise,” the mayor said in a video recorded by the activist during the meeting late last month.
Joseph Richardson declined to rise for the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer. He said he refused to rise because he believes saying the pledge and prayer violate his constitutional right.
The mayor directed the police chief who was in the meeting to ask Richardson to stand or be escorted out until the pledge was completed.
When he refused that offer, the police asked him to leave the meeting completely.
“What they did was against the law,” said David Williamson of the Central Florida Freethought Community to CNN affiliate WKMG. “No one has to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. That was settled 71 years ago, as far as students were concerned, and I am not aware of any time in our history when anyone had to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Richardson was referring to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ruled forcing students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag is unconstitutional.
That decision related to school children. Whether or not it would apply to municipal meetings is a question that still needs to be answered.
The city attorney is currently reviewing the incident to determine if any laws were broken.
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