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Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?

You Learn Something Every Day

Being involved in my homeowners’ association has been a great learning experience. And what a well-rounded education it’s been indeed! There are so many aspects to association governance ranging from financial and legal to construction, facilities management, personnel and more. For example, as a volunteer, as a Board member and most recently as President, I have learned things like why roads get cracks in them, the relationships between all of the levels of government in the local area, the difference between cash and accrual basis accounting, the life cycle of gypsy moths, how to deal with a variety of personalities, Performance Management, and on and on. The learning never stops and each lesson is unique and valuable, and some of the decisions we have to make in leadership are very hard and potentially controversial.

A Lesson In Civil Liberties

Most recently, we’ve had a request that the Board of Directors stop the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at our public meetings.  The reason, interestingly enough, is not wholly associated with religion, which has been the basis of many challenges to the practice in schools and other places over the years. The basis for this request has more to do with being inclusive of all homeowners, since the Association exists for the benefit of all homeowners. Some residents, we’ve been reminded, may be prohibited from reciting the Pledge because of religious issues, but others also may be prohibited from reciting the Pledge because of citizenship issues. As you know, one does not have to be a US citizen to own property here. It was argued, “If we are going to demonstrate patriotism or loyalty at our meetings, there are less exclusionary ways to do it,” such as the singing of America the Beautiful or something.

Should Alternatives Be Considered?

It’s not uncommon for organizations to open meetings with the Pledge – especially since 9/11, when Patriotism experienced a big Rebirth. The practice has become a regular part of our HOA meetings, as it has become a standard in some other organizations’ agendas. I’ve never considered that it might be offensive to some and quite honestly have always regarded it as a totally voluntary part of meetings. I am beginning to wonder if our quest for a kinder, gentler HOA requires that we be more sensitive to issues like this and that we seek an alternative to the Pledge. Is there some other way to honor our country, one that satisfies the needs of the many without alienating the few? After all, athletic events and even the big, televised political ceremonies opt for the National Anthem as the opening highlight.

What do you think? Does this request have merit? Or is this a case of political correctness gone mad?

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Written By

Lisa sells residential real estate in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern PA, and authors The Poconos Real Estate Blog. Being a strong believer in community participation, she currently serves as President of a 1700 home Property Owners' Association and Secretary of the Board of the local REALTOR Association for 2009. Her most challenging and fulfilling role, though, is that of Mom to two teenage girls, and her main hope for them is that they learn to appreciate the abundant joys of a life lived with a positive attitude. You can connect with Lisa on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn.



  1. Jack Leblond

    April 28, 2009 at 8:59 am

    As a veteran and former city council person, my initial reaction was “if you want to live here, you can say the pledge!”

    However – after thinking a bit, reading the history of the pledge ( and learning how it started as one man’s wish for children and slowly morphed into a tool for conformists to use against those that are different from them in any number of ways.

    I do feel pretty strongly though that people can only have one country. If you choose to move somewhere, get a job, buy property, have children etc – that is your country now.

  2. BawldGuy

    April 28, 2009 at 10:45 am

    At some point we, as Americans need to look some of these folks in the eye, and remind them they knew who we were and what the rules were when they came here. Then remind them WHY they came here.

  3. Sarah Cooper

    April 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Lisa, I remember the first time I said the Pledge with my child in public. Her eyes went wide when she realized Mommy knew the words to something she thought of as “from her school” – and then she looked around and all the other adults knew it, too. Suddenly it clicked with her, it wasn’t about school, it was something that united all Americans.

    I can understand a HOA meeting wanting to start with that feeling of unification. I’m not sure that I understand the problem with saying it, unless there is someone of another nationality who lives there and is offended. Personally I would enjoy listening to another country’s pledge to soak up some culture, even if I didn’t say it myself.

  4. Jim Rake

    April 28, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Lisa – Good questions & congrats on your willingness to step into the HOA ring and do battle.

    Suppose, I’d begin by asking what responsibilities come with home ownership. Are there any? To own a piece of American soil, does it come with any cost, other than the price of the property?

    Should it?

    Is pledging allegiance to the country or its’ flag necessarily against a religious or ethnic belief? Not one I’m familiar with.

    Lastly, since no specific God is identified in the pledge, what is there to oppose? For those who believe there is no God, there would seem to be no problem either.

    With property ownership comes responsibility, plain and simple. And, by the way, when these homeowners have (legal)problems with their land/property, whose court system are they going to petition for relief?

    Obviously, the only one available, and probably the only one they have faith in to fairly respond to their petition – the U.S Court system.

  5. Mark Eibner

    April 28, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    we’re at it again Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on t..

  6. sheilabragg

    April 28, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that the ShamW..

  7. Lisa Sanderson

    April 28, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    RT @Just posted: Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary? (here’s the right link, sowwy

  8. Daniel, The Real Estate Zebra

    April 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    No offense intended to you or your HOA, Lisa, but stuff like this is precisely why HOA’s rarely get anything accomplished; or when they do, it has been accomplished for twice the cost as it could have been done.

    Say the pledge, don’t say the pledge, who cares? The pledge has nothing to do with the tasks that an HOA is charged with.

    I live in a LARGE HOA, and I see the same thing happen here, too. Folks are so worried about non-essential junk that the stuff that really NEEDS to get done, doesn’t.

    Have someone make a motion to eliminate the pledge, second it (or not), discuss it, and vote. Then, move on to more important stuff.

    While the Pledge of Allegiance might be appropriate fodder for our elected government officials, HOA members and directors have things far more important to their organization that should be receiving attention.

    Saying or not saying the pledge before meetings will do nothing to the membership dues, the facilities maintenance, or the value of property.

    That being said, kudos to you for serving on your HOA board. You are a much braver person than I!

  9. Real Estate Feeds

    April 28, 2009 at 5:09 pm

    Can Patriotism Be Exclusionary?: Get out of your feed reader and comment on this post- we PROMISE that the ShamW..

  10. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Jack: I keep going back and forth on this too…definitely a tough question to answer.

    Bawldguy: Not sure the ‘rules’ include the Pledge, hence the question. But I do get your point.

    Sarah: I *love* experiencing other cultures & customs. One of the great things about our country is that we’re allowed to express them!

    Jim: Great point about the legal system. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  11. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 9:08 am

    Thank you, Daniel! HOA leadership is an awesome experience and I highly recommend it.

    I understand your concern that sweating the small stuff might distract from the real job of the Board, but I don’t find that to be the case. As a matter of fact, paying attention to the things that are important to the members has allowed us to grow our volunteer base, a major accomplishment! The challenge is to find ways of addressing these ‘small’ requests while keeping priorities where they should be. It can and does work for us.

    If your Board is not able to prioritize and get the right things done, you should definitely consider running!! 😉

  12. James Malanowski

    April 29, 2009 at 11:39 am

    If there are HOA members that decide they will not/cannot recite the pledge for whatever reason, fine. They have that choice. Why should their choice crush the choice of others?

    Last I checked, this is still the USA and we have a pledge to recite. I won’t recite the Mexican pledge when I visit Mexico, but I sure won’t complain that others are doing so.

    The folks in your HOA choose to live here … They need to learn how to deal with it.

    People need to get over the whole politically correctness BS and grow a spine.

  13. Lisa Sanderson

    April 29, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    @SarahWV Thanks for your comment yesterday…I *so* agree about the soaking up some culture thing!

  14. Sarah Cooper

    April 29, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    @LisaSanderson You made me think, it was an excellent question.

  15. Missy Caulk

    April 29, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    I would have had a hissie fit!!

    I am so sick of this attitude and political correctness. I would have quit and walked out on the spot. If it is your tradition then it should not be stopped.

    There are few things that get me riled up but this one does. I’ll come back later IF I calm down.

  16. Heather Barr

    April 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    “Is pledging allegiance to the country or its’ flag necessarily against a religious or ethnic belief?”

    No, pledging to the American flag is a symbol that you’re proud to be an American citizen. It does not mean you’re a proud property owner.

    “I won’t recite the Mexican pledge when I visit Mexico.” Neither would I. But US property owners are not always visitors. Nor are they always citizens.

    Refraining from saying the pledge at an HOA meeting isn’t “political correctness”. There is simply no connection between reciting the US pledge and being a property owner who exhibits pride of ownership and respect for your HOA and neighbors.

    If your HOA wants to demonstrate specific sentiments at the beginning of the meetings, perhaps it would be better to ask each person present to try to say something they love about your community.

  17. James Malanowski

    April 30, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    Okay, then when I go and visit the ranch in Mexico that my wife and I own, I will not complain when others recite the Mexican pledge … Jeez, talk about splitting hairs.

    This is a very “PC” topic. The connection is that if an assembly of people decide to open their meeting with the Pledge then others who do NOT wish to recite it have the right not to just as the others have the right TO recite.

    The bottom line is, recite or don’t recite … Just don’t base your decision on a person being uncomfortable because they’re not American or they don’t like America, or whatever their reasoning is. They can step outside for the 30 seconds it takes to get through it if it bothers them that much.

    If people are offended by the US Pledge (or US anything for that matter) maybe they shouldn’t be owning property, residing, visiting, or anything else.

    Since when is patriotism wrong or unacceptable? The respect for my HOA and my neighbors is exhibited by my recognizing their right to be in the same country as I am and I don’t bash them for not reciting our Pledge, singing our anthem, or anything else that would have them dishonor THEIR homeland.

    Again I say, if there is someone in the room so uncomfortable that they would try and limit my right to recite our Pledge then THEY should leave the room.

  18. BawldGuy

    April 30, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Simply put, we’re becoming a nation of 10 year old girls.

  19. James Malanowski

    April 30, 2009 at 5:32 pm


    Oops, that response might be construed as religious.

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