San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim refuses to recite the Pledge of Allegiance 

All the voices of the members of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors can be heard opening meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance — all but one.

Newly elected Supervisor Jane Kim stands with her colleagues, but does not speak the words. Nor does she place her right hand over her heart during the recitation. She is the only one of the 11-member board who doesn’t say the pledge.

Kim’s objection to the pledge, she says, is that the ideals it speaks of are not reality, specifically its conclusion, which says “with liberty and justice for all.” Kim says the nation is just not there yet.

“I don’t believe we are a nation with liberty and justice for all — yet,” Kim told The San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday. “So a lot of my work is motivated by wanting to be a part of achieving that ideal.”

Kim said the question of whether she should recite the pledge is something she’s thought about since high school. “It’s a very personal decision for me,” said Kim, who represents District 6.

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who sits next to Kim during the meetings, doesn’t have any problem with Kim’s silence. “To me, it’s a way about reminding myself about our country and the liberties and democracy that we enjoy,” he said. “But there are many, many ways of reminding ourselves of why we love our country.”

Kim says her refusal to say the pledge should in no way be a judgment of her patriotism. “I think I am very loyal the country,” she said. “I’ve expressed my patriotism through my years of doing organizing work, being a civil-rights lawyer and being a public servant now.”

The act of saying the pledge is part of the Board of Supervisors Rules of Order: “The President shall lead the Board and the audience in the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” There is no rule about whether members actually have to say it. Not reciting it is considered one’s right to freedom of speech.

The Pledge of Allegiance is no stranger to controversy. It has sparked a number of heated debates, including whether students can be forced to say it, and the addition of the phrase “under God.” Kim’s predecessor, Chris Daly, would say the pledge but not utter the words “under God.”

Kim also is not the first Bay Area politician to object to the ritual. In the early ’70s, the Berkeley City Council stopped reciting the pledge after Vietnam War protesters elected to the council abolished it. Berkeley later restored the recitation of the pledge in the mid-’80s.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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