Arcata councilman suggests city ditch Pledge of Allegiance as part of council protocols

Councilman Paul Pitino, far left, suggested the council consider ditching the Pledge of Allegiance at meetings. (Screenshot)
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Arcata Councilman Paul Pitino suggested the city consider dropping the Pledge of Allegiance from being part of the protocols to begin council meetings on Wednesday night.

The council was looking at edits and revisions to the city’s protocol manual, something that needs to be done on a regular basis according to Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer.

“I would love to get rid of the flag salute, the Pledge of Allegiance if we could do that,” Pitino told the council. “I don’t know if anyone else is interested in that.”

He suggested the Pledge was introduced as part of an advertising campaign.

“It was introduced to the U.S. by an advertising executive as a way of drumming up support for whatever they were trying to sell and it got accepted into the communities, especially schools,” Pitino said.

“It’s not anywhere in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that you have to do this,” he added a moment later.

The Pledge of Allegiance was first written in 1892 by Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister from upstate New York. While working in the promotions department for Youth’s Companion magazine, he was asked to write a new salute to the flag that would be used at a ceremony commemorating the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ travels. Millions of schoolchildren read it in October 1892 as part of the Columbus Day ceremony and it quickly took root in schools across the nation.

Pitino was critical of the pledge because he felt it “gets close to being religious in a way or belief mechanism.”

The words “under God” were added to the pledge in 1954 through a federal bill signed by President Dwight Eisenhower.

“I don’t think it has any place in our council meetings,” Pitino said.

Other council members did not express an interest in ditching the pledge.

Councilman Michael Winkler did not believe it was a religious statement.

“To me, it’s an aspiration rather than a statement of fact and I am comfortable with that as an aspiration,” he said.

Pitino urged fellow council members and the public to Google the history.

“All you have to do is hit Google and look at the origin of the Pledge of Allegiance it will give you the whole story,” he said. “I think that each of us could do that and think about it and say, ‘Is that something we want to do or not?’ “

The council did not indicate it will return as a topic of discussion in the future. Other minor changes to the meeting protocol were suggested and will be made by staff.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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