October 07, 2010
TUPELO, MS - The ACLU of Mississippi is appalled by the unconstitutional jailing of attorney Danny Lampley. On Wednesday, Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn jailed Lampley in Tupelo, Mississippi because Lampley declined to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
The state may not constitutionally compel anyone to recite the Pledge of Allegiance against his or her conscience. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects an individual’s right not to speak, as well as to speak. The ACLU-MS calls on Judge Talmadge to honor the First Amendment rights of individuals in his courtroom.
“In America, patriotism is best exemplified by exercising our constitutional freedoms, including freedom of conscience," said Nsombi Lambright, ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director. "You can love your country and decline to say the pledge. True patriots don’t jail people for exercising their constitutional freedoms.”
“The right to be free from state-coerced oaths is a fundamental constitutional protection," said Bear Atwood, Interim Legal Director for the ACLU of Mississippi. “This issue usually comes up in a school context, and courts have repeatedly and resoundingly upheld the right of students not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. A judge has no more right to order an attorney in his court to recite the pledge than a teacher does in a classroom."
The ACLU has been defending freedom of conscience and the First Amendment since 1920, and the ACLU of Mississippi office was founded in 1969. Attorney Lampley’s actions remind every ACLU member and supporter that true patriotism is more than reciting words, it is standing up for fundamental freedoms, even when doing so may be uncomfortable or unpopular.
More information about the ACLU and Freedom of Speech can be found at www.aclu.org/free-speech.