Dane County supervisor Heidi Wegleitner of District 2 presented a proposal to remove the pledge of allegiance and prayer from future county board meetings this past Tuesday. Currently, Dane County Board meetings begin with supervisors reciting the pledge of allegiance and reciting an optional non-denominational prayer.
Wegleitner explained that she believes removing the pledge and prayer from meetings will make the County Board more accessible to members of the public and encourage additional engagement from the Dane County community.
“My proposals to remove the Pledge of Allegiance and reference to prayer from the county board agenda is part of a package of proposals I drafted to make the county board more welcoming, inclusive and intentional with public engagement,” Wegleitner stated.
Wegleitner also expressed that she feels it is “un-American” to pressure people to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and is contrary to American ideals.
“Under current procedure, at each meeting, a supervisor is asked to lead the board and meeting attendees in the Pledge of Allegiance. Pressuring people to recite the pledge is contrary to fundamental American ideals of freedom and democracy. Frankly, it’s un-American,” she said.
In an interview with the Cardinal, District 5 Supervisor Elena Haasl, whose district encompasses the UW-Madison campus, expressed her support for Weglteitner’s proposal.
“To me, it’s a separation of church and state issue. I think right now, there’s a lot to be considered in terms of, what does the pledge stand for. Is it really liberty and justice for all?” Haasl asked. “I don’t think so.”
Haasl went on to explain that she feels that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer alienates members of the community and is inappropriate for a local body of government.
“I think that it’s not really appropriate to have it in a county board meeting when we’re serving so many different kinds of people who come from different backgrounds.” Haasl explained.
Wegleitner’s proposal has drawn criticism from District Supervisor Jeff Weigand, Dis. 20, who feels that the pledge and prayer serve to reaffirm the County Board’s dedication to serving the Dane County Community.
Weigand stated, “As county board supervisors, we have taken an oath to support the United States and Wisconsin constitutions. Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each meeting is a reminder of the oath we have taken and an outward expression of support for the country we love.”
Wegleitner’s proposal will be considered by the board’s executive committee on March 24. Newly elected supervisors will make the final decision at the April 5 election.