Four short lines are sparking debate among area parents. The state Senate has just passed a resolution that would encourage students to recite the salute to the Tennessee flag in class each day. Some believe it's good for Tennessee pride. Others say it violates the separation of church and state.
On a field trip to the Capitol Wednesday, the fourth-graders of Smyrna Primary Elementary took a break from bills and legislative branches for apples, sandwiches and chocolate milk.
Mom Rachel Charlton said she wants her daughter to have a strong sense of state history, which is why she's supporting the resolution.
"It actually brought out the three stars and a little bit more of our history," said Charlton. "Maybe the children would know more about our history."
Adopted by the general assembly in 1981, the salute goes:
"Three white stars on a field of blue, God keep them strong and ever true. It is with pride and love that we salute the Flag of Tennessee."
"We will not be enforcing it, but we are strongly suggesting they start saying the pledge to the Tennessee flag," said Sen. Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.
Sponsored by Beavers, the resolution just passed the Senate. She hopes classes will say the salute after the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
"We're a volunteer state, you know," said Beavers. "We had more volunteers to volunteer to go to Texas than any other state. I think there should be a sense of pride in our state."
"My 6-year-old would be urged to say this every day without accommodations made to her about what her family believes," said parent Kris Tyrrell.
Tyrrell is co-organizer of Sunday Assembly, a new monthly gathering of non-believers in Nashville. She said the salute violates the separation of church and state.
"Where this differs from the Pledge of Allegiance and the 'under God' is this actually addresses God, which makes it more of a prayer," said Tyrrell.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State said in a statement, "Americans United believes this resolution is unnecessary and divisive. These statements are particularly troubling in a public school setting where students of minority faiths and no faith at all will be left feeling like outsiders among their peers."
As the resolution now heads to the House of Representatives, Beavers said her goal is to have students pay respect to their state as well as their country.
"We would like for children to be proud of their state," said Beavers.
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