A high school in Madison, Wis., is clearing the air after it was recently accused of omitting "God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, allowing students to say the word "peace" instead.
The incident began when Benji Backer, a 16-year-old self-described conservative activist from Appleton, wrote on the conservative website RedState that he had received an email from a student at a nearby school, who claimed she had witnessed students reciting an amended Pledge of Allegiance twice in one month, with one student skipping the phrase "Under God" and another replacing "God" with "peace."
The student who sent the email was Samantha Murphy, a junior at Madison East High School. According to Backer, Murphy claimed in her email that "her school began to remove 'under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance, and added that they thought they were 'above the law.' On the first day of revision, they took out the entire line 'one nation under God.' The next day, they merely skipped the words 'under God.' On the third day, Thursday March 6th, 2014, they replaced the word 'God' with 'peace.'"
In her email, Murphy also allegedly claimed that before January 2013, her high school did not offer the Pledge of Allegiance daily, and only after her family contacted the district did the school begin offering the pledge regularly.
Backer's RedState article was then picked up by local media outlets, including the Green Bay Press Gazette, the Wisconsin State Journal and Madison.com. A spokeswoman for the Madison School District then emailed the Star Tribune, clarifying that the high school usually allows only a member of the faculty to recite the pledge in the morning, and the two times they did allow students to say the pledge in March, it was recited inaccurately.
"East High School offers the pledge every day (that has always been the case), and has not removed the word 'God,'" school district spokesperson Rachel Strauch-Nelson said in an email to the local media outlet.
Strauch-Nelson then confirmed that two separate students on two separate days in March had misread the pledge, and they had been corrected for their mistakes afterward. "This limited misreading was followed up on and otherwise, the pledge is read by the same staff member every day."
T.J. Mertz, a local school board member, said it is still unclear whether the two students intentionally or accidentally omitted "God" from their versions of the pledge. Regardless, Mertz said he welcomes all students to speak up for their beliefs. "We want our students to be self-advocating and have beliefs. I support them acting on their beliefs."