- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

The Arlington [Va.] County Board is calling proposals that members recite the pledge of allegiance before meetings "divisive" and "politically correct" and has steadfastly refused to alter its agenda to permit the pledge to be said.
A citizen first questioned during a council meeting in November the absence of a pledge recital by board members. The members didn't respond, but Coast Guard veteran Robert Molleur, sitting in the audience, did.
The next month, Mr. Molleur requested that the board consider adding the pledge of allegiance to its agenda.
"I was really upset," Mr. Molleur said. "I said, 'I think you should do the pledge of allegiance.'"
At its January meeting, Mr. Molleur again approached the board, but with a different tactic.
"I told them hundreds of men and women have died for our freedom and have given up their tomorrows for our todays," he said.
Then he stood, turned to the flag, and recited the pledge. About a dozen people attending the 8:30 Saturday morning meeting stood up and joined in the recital, as did the five council members.
In February another activist, John Antoinelli, rose and said the pledge during the public-comment period.
According to news accounts, the board members did stand, but few said the words. This time, though, Council Vice Chairman Charles Monroe and Council Chairman Chris Zimmerman spoke out.
"I take offense when some seek to pressure me into, or attempt to dictate, the manner of my personal expressions of loyalty," Mr. Monroe said in a prepared statement.
He said the motivation to get the pledge on the agenda was political rather than patriotic, adding that the voices that were the "loudest in calling for the pledge are those who are the most critical of political correctness, which is what the calls for us to say the pledge are."
Mr. Zimmerman said during the meeting that it was "tragic" that "symbols of patriotism are used not … to unite us, but to divide us."
Neither Mr. Zimmerman nor Mr. Monroe was available for comment yesterday.
The other members of the five-member council Paul Ferguson, Barbara Favola and Jay Fisette did not respond to phone messages left at their homes.
The drive to add the pledge to the agenda began when county Taxpayers Association President Tim Wise raised the issue almost as an afterthought during public comments in November.
"I looked at them [the board members] and said, 'You guys need to start the meeting with the pledge. The school board does it, and it's the best part of the meeting.'"
With the appeals coming from Republicans, Mr. Zimmerman said it was a "cheap shot" against the all-Democrat board a charge that offends local Republicans.
"They made it a political issue because they're the ones that came out with this," said Mike Clancy, a Republican candidate for the county board. "What I find the most bizarre is that our children say it every day in school, and Zimmerman is saying he won't say it during a meeting. What kind of message are we sending?"
In addition to Arlington's school board, Fairfax and Prince George's counties open legislative sessions with the pledge. Montgomery County opens with an invocation, and the D.C. Council observes a moment of silence.
The Arlington County Board is scheduled to meet Saturday at 8:30 a.m. As always, public comments are first on the agenda.


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