Hampden councilors argue whether to start meetings with Pledge of Allegiance

Posted Jan. 26, 2014, at 5:20 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — After two rounds of debate, town councilors last week voted 5-2 to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of their meetings.

Voting for the measure on Tuesday were Mayor Carol Duprey and councilors David Ryder, Jean Lawlis, Greg Sirois and Ivan McPike, according to Town Clerk Denise Hodsdon. Opposed were councilors Tom Brann and William Shakespeare.

The proposal to recite the pledge during council meetings was made by Duprey during her first meeting as mayor on Jan. 6.

“I feel this is important, to salute the flag of our country. I am actually a very distant descendant of Betsy Ross and so this is a little closer to my heart but I think this is important,” Duprey said at that time. “It’s done for most state meetings. It’s done at our schools. We should do it here at our council meetings.

“This is a council rule. This can be changed by the council. If the council wishes to do this, we can change it today or it can be sent to a committee, if we feel that this is necessary,” she said.

Brann, however, said the council’s rules did not allow for a decision that night.

Duprey disagreed, saying she checked into the matter before the meeting and was told the council could change its rules with or without first discussing it at committee level.

A motion to add the pledge to council meetings was made and seconded.

“We’re going to have no discussion on this matter at all?” Shakespeare asked. “We’re just going to vote on it and pass it?”

Duprey asked for public comment.

Shakespeare noted that council rules prohibited public comment after a motion has been made, which turned out to be the case. Brann agreed and said that the motion should be withdrawn. He later lodged a formal objection to the violation of procedures and asked that his objections be reflected in the meeting minutes.

Nevertheless, Dupre allowed residents to speak.

Kristen Hornbrook, a former council member, supported Duprey’s proposal.

“Why didn’t we think of this before?” she said. “We have a beautiful flag right in the room and it only makes sense that we could be pledging to it.”

Rep. Brian Duprey, the mayor’s husband, also was in favor.

“The United States Congress starts every session with the Pledge of Allegiance. The Maine state Legislature starts every session with the Pledge of Allegiance. Ninety percent of schoolkids across America say the Pledge of Allegiance,” he said.

Shakespeare, who pointed out that he served more than 30 years in various military units and that four generations of his family had served, said he “could not believe this was on the agenda” when he saw it.

“Honestly, I think it’s ludicrous to make councilors get up there and pledge their allegiance. … I don’t think there’s anybody in this room who is more patriotic than I am. I don’t think there is anybody in this room who has done more military service — over 30 years — than I have. … Patriotic? Absolutely. But I don’t think the council should have to get up there and pledge [their] allegiance,” he said.

Shakespeare asked for a legal opinion regarding how council rules can be changed. Town Manager Susan Lessard and Thomas Russell, the town’s legal counsel, agreed that there did not to appear to be any rule preventing it.

The motion to add the pledge passed 5-2, with Brann and Shakespeare in the minority.

Near the end of the meeting, however, Brann cited the rule preventing a vote that night: “The rules cannot be dispensed with or suspended if one or more members of the council shall object. No rule or order shall be amended or repealed without notice, in writing, being given at the preceding meeting.”

When the matter came back before the council on Tuesday night, it passed in a 5-2 vote, with the same councilors in support and the same ones against.

 

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