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Golden Valley City Council To Keep Pledge of Allegiance at Formal Meetings

The council discussed the Pledge during an informal council/city manager meeting June 11 after one member brought it up for discussion.

The Golden Valley City Council discussed whether or not to continue saying the Pledge of Allegiance at formal meetings at a meeting on June 11 at City Hall. (photo by Stefanie Briggs)
The Golden Valley City Council discussed whether or not to continue saying the Pledge of Allegiance at formal meetings at a meeting on June 11 at City Hall. (photo by Stefanie Briggs)
During its informal June 11 meeting the Golden Valley City Council came to the consensus to continue saying the Pledge of Allegiance at its regular meetings in the future.

The discussion topic was brought up by Councilmember Steve Schmidgall who had said he was uncomfortable with reciting the Pledge specifically because of the "under God" part.

Previously, Schmidgall told Patch that he had three reason for not wanting to recite the Pledge: the "under God" part made him uncomfortable, saying the Pledge seemed more like a prayer and was not appropriate for a council meeting and he prefers not showing his patriotism in such a way.

Mayor Shep Harris had the Pledge added to the agenda about a year and a half ago, but did not ask the rest of the council at the time whether or not they wanted it added.  Schmidgall, who was appointed to the council this January, was not on the council when the Pledge was added.

Councilmember DeDe Scanlon said when she first came on the council years before she had brought up the idea of saying the Pledge at the council meetings, but at the time was told by other council members at the time it wasn't a good idea.

Councilmember Joanie Clausen said that the Council had now set a precedent saying the Pledge at its regular meetings and should continue to do so as it "is in the spirit of what we do and what we represent," she said.

Mayor Harris said he respected people who wanted to opt out of saying the Pledge or saying a different version of it at meetings. He thanked Councilmember Schmidgall for bringing the discussion up as Harris had learned more about the Pledge and its history.

A few points of interest about the Pledge's history include the following:
• Francis Bellamy, an American socialist, minister and author, composed the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892.
• The Pledge was formally adopted by Congress in 1942. Since then it has been changed or modified four times.
• One controversial modification to the Pledge was the addition of the words "under God," which were added in 1954 by President Eisenhower.

Councilmember Paula Pentel said she felt the Pledge was redundant since the council members had already said the oath of office after being voted onto the council by residents. 

When the Council has asked other entities to start the Pledge at meetings Pentel has seen it as more "rah-rah" rather than reciting the Pledge in a solemn nature. She said she doesn't recite the current version of the Pledge.

Clausen disagreed with Pentel that having other groups' recite the Pledge at meetings felt "rah-rah."

"I look at it as we are letting them be a part of the community and using community in ths way is great," she said. "I love it."

Pentel said she had preferred that the Council had never started saying the Pledge, but understands how it would now be difficult to stop. She acknowledges that it is a complex issue with many different layers and meanings for people.

"People have strong feelings about it," she said. "Within our state and nation we have real issues accepting diversity in belief systems."

Pentel said she was fine with having the Pledge recited at council meetings.

Harris said one of the reasons he recites the Pledge is to honor the military and those who have served this country. Scanlon agreed she also saw it as a way to show appreciation to those who have served.

Schmidgall nodded when Mayor Harris affirmed that the council's consensus was to continue with the Pledge at formal council meetings.

"Obviously there is no disrespect or suspicion cast on anyone, on the council or in the audience, who doesn't recite the pledge or recites it differently," Harris said.

After the discussion finished, Schmidgall said he was not surprised by the consensus and knew removing the Pledge from meetings would be an uphill battle.

"As they pointed out a precedent has been set," Schmidgall said. "I didn't say it at the meeting tonight, but I was going to suggest that the Pledge could be said outside the Council Chambers before the meeting instead."

Schmidgall said he has never felt compelled to recite the Pledge at the meetings, but said he will most likely not be reciting it in the future. Schmidgall said he received communication from citizens and residents before the June 11 meeting about discussing the Pledge. Two notes he received  were in support of his efforts despite other communication, which disagreed with him. One email told him to move to Canada, he said.

"I enjoy my role on the Golden Valley City Council and I feel I've been very thoughtful in it," Schmidgall said. "I fully intend to run for the remaining term of this council seat this fall."

Schmidgall did admit he feared people who otherwise would have voted for him this fall may not do so after this discussion. But he also feels assured by those who have spoken up and felt the same way as him and Councilmember Pentel. 

Peoples' feelings go both ways, he said.

No formal action was taken about the Pledge recitation, but consensus was made with a majority of the council in agreement.

What do you think? Do you think the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited at City Council meetings or not? Share your opinion in the comments below!
Andy Snope June 12, 2013 at 07:46 AM
Surely there must have been other business discussed at the meeting? I seem to remember seeing this issue being at the bottom of the agenda. Point being, of the important business that the council discusses at these meeting it is to bad that this issue seems to be so important. Council Member Schmidgall has some feelings about saying the pledge. I respect him and applaud him for having the courage to speak up to his fellow council members about his concerns. He shouldn't feel obligated to say the pledge, that is his right. The council discussed it, they made a decision, move on. What other business truly affecting the citizens of Golden Valley did they discuss this evening?
Stefanie Briggs June 12, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Thanks for your comment Andy! I've received a lot of feedback about this topic and people who have agreed and disagreed about, which all part of starting a conversation here on Patch. We are glad to hear from you and what you have to say.
Shep Harris June 13, 2013 at 12:28 AM
I applaud GV Council Member Steve Schmidgall for initiating a conversation at last night's city work session on whether the City Council should recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Council meetings. While we disagreed on the issue and will continue with the Pledge, Council Member Schmidgall reminded us that democractic principles like free speech, due process and transparency in government should never be taken for granted. This very respectful civics discussion made me proud to be a part of the GV City Council and to be an American.

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