WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) asked the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to defend an embattled Illinois student who was targeted by his school’s administration for refusing to stand during a recitation of the Mexican National Anthem.
Robert Bedard’s son, a student at Larkin High School in Elgin, Chicago, refused to stand when the Mexican National Anthem was played at a cultural awareness program. Bedard, speaking for his son because he is a minor, complained that his son was being coerced into showing support for a foreign government, arguing, “I would be happy if they will not try to force students to honor patriotic elements of another culture unless they also honor our flag, our anthem as well.”
Tancredo wrote the ACLU’s President asking that she defend Bedard. The Congressman questioned why the so-called nonpartisan organization had not come to Bedard’s aid when it had recently argued that students not be forced to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance, and when the Mexican National Anthem invokes religious belief such as: “Oh fatherland/ Your forehead shall be girded with olive garlands,/ by the divine archangel of peace/ For in heaven your eternal destiny/ has been written by the hand of God.”
Tancredo’s letter is printed below:
Ms. Nadine Strossen
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
18th Floor New York, NY 10004
Dear Ms. Strossen,
As you may know, a student in an Illinois public school was recently disciplined by school authorities for choosing to stay seated during the playing of the Mexican National Anthem. According to press reports, the student was concerned that paying homage to a foreign government by standing may have jeopardized his upcoming enlistment in the military.
The case has received some attention in the media, and I was wondering if your organization plans to take any action on behalf of this student, or any of the other students who may have felt coerced by the “officially sponsored” nature of the activity.
As recently as 2003, the Colorado chapter of the ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the constitutionality of school sponsored recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. The ACLU’s state legal director at that time told the media, “Public expressions of belief in the ideals of liberty and justice should be voluntary, not coerced.” If the ACLU feels that asking students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes “coercion”, I would imagine you would be equally concerned when students are compelled to pay homage to a foreign nation.
Additionally, one verse of the Mexican Anthem starts with the following words:
For in heaven your eternal destiny, has been written by the hand of God.
The ACLU is well known for its ongoing effort to banish religious references from every corner of the American public square, and these lyrics are at least as religious as the Pledge. After reading the words, I was doubly surprised that your group has not already sprung into action to characterize the event as an unconstitutional “establishment of religion.”
I look forward to hearing from you on the ACLU’s plans as they apply to this case.
Thank you in advance for your time.
Member of Congress