Senate Democrats killed a bill Tuesday that would have required students to recite the pledge of allegiance in public schools, saying it's wrong to force students to take a public stand on patriotism.
Sen. John Andrews, R-Englewood, said many schools no longer require the pledge of allegiance and some students do not even know the words.
"Since Sept. 11, the flag has blossomed all over this country, but it is of concern to some of us that the homage to the flag and republic for which it stands be more than a passing fad or a fashion.
"If our public schools aren't about teaching the love of country, what are they about at all?" asked Andrews.
Andrews tried and failed to bypass the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was scheduled to take public testimony on the bill Tuesday, by forcing a floor vote. It was defeated on party lines, 17-18.
Later, it died in committee on a 4-3 party line vote. Democrats said forcing students to recite the pledge could be counterproductive, making older students jaded about their country by forcing them to recite the pledge by rote instead of from the heart.
"You talk of the duty of the state to teach a love for country. Do you really think that reciting the pledge is going to do that?" asked Sen. Sue Windels, D-Arvada, a public school teacher.
Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, cited a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found a pledge requirement unconstitutional based on religious objections, but said he would not support Senate Bill 149 even with a religious exclusion.
"I don't think we should coerce proofs of loyalty," Gordon said in a room filled with high school students who were at the Capitol to study state government.
He also said a vote against the bill was not a vote against patriotism.
Rosel Pederson, a 15-year-old 9th grader from Widefield High School south of Colorado Springs, said her school does not require the pledge. She agreed with the majority of lawmakers on the committee who said it would be wrong to force the pledge upon students.
"People have their own politics," she said.
Jenelle Thompson, a 17-year-old junior, said she has been saying the pledge in school since kindergarten and misses it in high school.
She said even though her parents are in the military defending the flag, students should be free to make their own decisions.
"That's their decision. I don't call it disrespectful," she said.