Right Wing Email Spreads False Claim that Obama Refused to Say Pledge of Allegiance

It looks like that time of year before the elections has come when each of the candidates is the target of a wave of unsubstantiated claims. The most curious thing about these rumors is how so many conservatives are gullible enough to believe them and pass them on as truth. The rumors, generally spread by email, sometimes with the help of The National Enquirer, claim that both John Edwards and Hillary Clinton are having affairs with women. As far as I know, Obama has been spared from these attacks but has been the target of many others, such as the claim that he is Muslum or went to a Madrassa.

Obama is currently being subjected to an email campaign claiming he refused to say the pledge of allegiance. The Fact Checker at The Washington Post (Hat tip to Think on These Things) debunks this one:

The photograph was taken on September 16, 2007, at Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry festivities in Iowa, an important ritual for Democratic presidential hopefuls. Contrary to the e-mails attacking Obama for disrespecting the flag, the candidates were not reciting the pledge of allegiance. They were standing for the national anthem.

As far as we can ascertain, the photograph first appeared in Time Magazine on October 1. Visit Time’s website for a larger version. It was then picked up by the NewsBusters blog (Motto: “Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias”), and from there made its way into all those in-boxes.

To his credit, the NewsBusters blogger does not try to pretend that the photograph had anything to do with the pledge of allegiance. Instead he cites Title 36 or the U.S. Code, which states the following:

During a rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed (A) all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; (B) men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart;

By that standard, everybody in the picture (Obama, Richardson, Clinton, and Ruth Harkin) was infringing the Code, as they had their backs to the flag. On the other hand, the Code refers specifically to “Patriotic and National Observances.” We welcome the opinion of protocol experts, but we are not sure that a steak fry qualifies as a “Patriotic Observance,” even in Iowa. Since the steak fry was awash with flags, it is quite possible that the aforementioned political candidates were facing the flag and had their backs to the flag at the same time.

We see Obama’s behavior when the pledge is actually being recited in the photo below:

University of Delaware Drops Controversial Program

In follow up of a recent story on FIRE’s complaints about a program at The University of Delaware which appears to represent ideological indoctrination, the University has canceled the program. From a statement released by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

After an intense campaign led by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), the University of Delaware has dropped an ideological reeducation program that was referred to in the university’s own materials as a “treatment” for students’ incorrect attitudes and beliefs. The program’s stated goal was for the approximately 7,000 students in Delaware’s residence halls to adopt highly specific university-approved views on politics, race, sexuality, sociology, moral philosophy, and environmentalism. Following FIRE’s campaign, which called the attention of the national media and the blogosphere to the Orwellian program, university President Patrick Harker terminated the program, effective immediately.

FIRE applauds President Harker for recognizing the chilling nature of this program and ending it,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “Under the First Amendment, state institutions have no right to impose mandatory ideological training on their students. We are thrilled that this unconscionable and invasive program is gone, but we will be keeping an eye on the University of Delaware to make sure future programs respect the individual right of conscience of its students.”

Under the program, students were required to attend training sessions, floor meetings, and “one-on-one” meetings with their Resident Assistants (RAs). The university also instructed RAs to ask intrusive personal questions during one-on-one sessions, including “When did you discover your sexual identity?” A student who responded, “That is none of your damn business,” was, according to the university’s own materials, written up—along with the student’s name and room number—as having one of the “wors[t] one-on-one” sessions.

The program’s materials stated that the goal of the residence life education program was for students in the university’s residence halls to achieve certain “competencies” that the university decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of “citizenship.” These “competencies” included: “Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society,” “Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression,” and “Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality.” And in the Office of Residence Life’s internal materials, the program was described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation, including referring to the program as “treatment” and defining “learning” as “specific attitudinal or behavioral changes.”

Following FIRE’s initial press release, the university’s administration first chose to defend its invasive and unconstitutional residence life education program. However, in a statement released late yesterday, President Harker stated, “I have directed that the program be stopped immediately. No further activities under the current framework will be conducted.” Harker also called for a “full and broad-based review” of the program’s practices and purposes.