Man refuses to stand for Pledge of Allegiance; forcibly removed from public meeting

A Florida mayor ordered his town’s police chief to escort a resident from a City Commission meeting last week because the man refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the incident took place Thursday in Winter Garden, just west of Orlando, when a man identified as 51-year-old Joseph Richardson refused to stand for a prayer to begin the meeting, then the pledge that followed.

“I just said, ‘Either stand or go in the hallway.’ He wouldn’t,” Mayor John Rees told the Sentinel. “It wasn’t premeditated. I just reacted. It hit me. I said it. I gave him an option. … Life will go on.”

In a video of the incident taken by Richardson, city commissioners are seen standing for a prayer – which included thanks to God “for allowing us to be in a country where we have freedom to believe and think and pray.” At the start of the pledge, Richardson is told to rise and refuses.

“I don’t think I have to,” Richardson responded.

That’s when Rees had the town’s police chief take Richardson from the room. He was not arrested, the Sentinel reported.

Check out the video here, via The Blaze.

Richardson, who could not be reached the Sentinel last week, is a known activist for atheist causes in Central Florida. An active member of the Florida Freethought Committee, dedicated to keeping religion out of government, he tangled with Brevard County commissioners earlier in August over their refusal to allow a Freethought Committee member to deliver an invocation to open their meetings.

According to The Blaze, he’s also a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, the “perpetually affronted” Wisconsin-based group that finds endless ways of making a pest of itself – (like criticizing student athletes for kneeling on the field in prayer for an injured teammate)  — in the name of protecting the First Amendment.

The foundation is threatening to turn out at the next Winter Park Commission meeting to make its point even clearer, according to the Blaze.

Now, here’s the thing.

The Freedom From Religion folks might really be good faith gadflies, like Socrates in Athens, pricking social norms to stir thought and protect sacred freedoms we all should hold dear.

Or they might be socially stunted, preening intellectuals who just like attracting attention to themselves by bragging about how they read all 85 Federalist Papers before they were 10 and how much they hate paper money.

Regardless, they really do have a right not to stand for the pledge, they have a right to be pests, and no mayor, governor or president in the United States has the right to order an armed agent of the state to remove them from a public meeting because they won’t obey orders.

The FFR people are a pain, but even stopped clocks are right sometimes. And when they’re right, they’re right.

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Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders, a 25-year newspaper veteran, is a staff writer and editor for BizPac Review who lives in Tallahassee and covers capital and Florida politics. Email Joe at [email protected].


751 thoughts on “Man refuses to stand for Pledge of Allegiance; forcibly removed from public meeting

  1. Pappdukes says:

    P.S. The Police Chief should be commended for peacefully ejecting this Citizen Troll out of the Chamber.

  2. Nick Hamerla says:

    Only a group of [email protected]&%#€ liberals, who converted to “conservatism” (for today’s lesson we will refer to them as the soulless, anti American scumbags they are – libertarians) whose reason for converting had nothing other than utilizing the constitution to justify their reprehensible contempt for everything American and Christian. You are no better than these Muslim extremists hiding behind the First Amendment. Your freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion… and while you might make the argument we were not founded as a Christian nation, there is far and away more evidence we were than any evidence that we were founded as an athiest or muslim nation. You and the burka crowd are useful allies aren’t you? Ha

  3. Nick Hamerla says:

    I have a theory that libertarians are nothing other than converted liberals whose reasons for converting had nothing other to do with their contempt for America and any traditional way of life. Instead now here trying to use the constitution against anything they deem patriotic or Christian. Kind of makes me sick to my stomach to listen to any of you justify this man’s behavior. Not all veterans agree with his “right” to disrespect this country’s flag or its (like it or not) deeply established religion.

  4. Nick Hamerla says:

    And you can’t fire a police chief for removing an individual for disrupting a public meeting. Over react much?

  5. Ignatz says:

    If the Pledge of Allegiance is compelled, it is meaningless.

  6. GlennBillings says:

    I agree with the author of this article. You see, part of the 1st Amendment right to free speech is the right to NOT be compelled say any speech or take any oaths.

    The Framers were quite clear that they wanted no religious oaths for taking any governmental offices. The only oath they are required to take is the oath quoted in the constitution to support and defend the constitution.

    The Pledge of Allegiance was created to perpetuate a nationalist socialist agenda.

    The Framers were also quite clear that they as agents for the people did not create a NATION but a CONFEDERATION of sovereign, independent States.
    The united States (per the capitalization of the Declaration) is NOT A NTION. The Framers specifically voted against this in the constitutional convention.

    They created a confederation of states not a consolidation of a states.
    A NATION is a consolidation.

    The constitution is very clear in the federal government has ONLY the explicit, enumerated powers granted to it, and NO MORE.
    No where is the federal government given the power to compel any one to say any thing. And his mere presence and is mere sitting while every one is standing and reciting the pledge is protected speech.

    I think it is a great disrespect to the flag to burn it, but that is a citizens right of protected speech to burn the flag.

    If it is protected speech to be able to burn the flag, it is protected speech to not have to stand and recite any pledge to it.

    That being said, I have no idea of what Florida constitution and law is on this matter. But I do know that it is the right of the state to protect the citizens rights when the federal government violates those rights.
    The state governments are closer to the citizen and thus should be more responsive to protections.
    I only know that the constitution says the states are not allowed to do certain things, but other than that, they have the right to do whatever the people of their state says.
    So the real question is what does the Florida constitution and Florida law say?

  7. Daniel Pose says:

    nick aponzi – Why r u so angry about being schooled here about the pledge? You should be angry at the government schools (socialist schools) for keeping you so stupid. No one should stand for nor chant the Pledge of Allegiance because it was the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior (that is one of the amazing discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry, as described in the book “Pledge of Allegiance + Swastika Secrets” by author Ian Tinny).

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