I’ll Stand for the Flag When this Nation Stands for Gay Equality Says 10-Year-Old

Will Phillips, a ten-year-old from Arkansas, won’t stand for the flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance at school. Why? In his own words: “I really don’t feel that there’s currently liberty and justice for all.”

The Arkansas Times reports that this all started after a conversation Will had with his parents. They have gay friends and have increasingly been disappointed by the way gay and lesbian Americans have to fight for their rights.

During a car ride, the family began discussing the Pledge of Allegiance – not a typical family discussion topic, but then again, Will Phillips is anything but a typical ten-year-old – when Will identified a problem in standing for a pledge that says

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”

when lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are discriminated against on a daily basis, both locally, and as a result of federal law.

Will asked his parents if it was legal for him to refuse to stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance at his school. It is. So, Will decided to take matters into his own hands.

On Monday, Oct. 5, when Will went to class, he refused to stand for the pledge like the rest of his classmates. He had a substitute teacher that week, and at first she let this slide. As the week went on, she became angry, though.

By Thursday of that week, she was putting more and more pressure on Will to comply. The substitute teacher brought up Will’s mother, saying that she would want him to stand and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. This didn’t sit well, as Will himself relates:

“She got a lot more angry and raised her voice and brought my mom and my grandma up… I was fuming and was too furious to really pay attention to what she was saying. After a few minutes, I said, ‘With all due respect, ma’am, you can go jump off a bridge.’ ”

Will was sent to the principal’s office. His mother, Laura Phillips, was called. Her first question was why it was that her child, a boy who loves learning and skipped from third to fifth grade, was telling a teacher to jump off a bridge?

The principal eventually told Will’s mother that Will wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and after repeated attempts made by the teacher to have Will comply with her wishes, the incident had occurred.

Eventually the principal conceded that Will was not required to say the pledge by either law or school policy. On that basis, Laura Phillips asked when she should expect an apology from the substitute teacher. None has been forthcoming.

On Oct. 20, Will gave a speech about the incident, which his parents have generously put on YouTube:

I have to admit, I’m always a little hesitant when it comes to stories concerning children and their participation in the fight for gay equality. It’s not the act that I have a problem with in itself, rather the fact that it is sometimes unclear whether or not the child actually understands what it is they are fighting for, or if they have been coached and are repeating ideas parrot fashion. This doesn’t just go for gay rights, but for any form of political activism.

However, Will strikes me as a young man who is smart enough to not only understand what it is that he’s saying, but to fully comprehend the nuanced argument behind it; that a denial of equal civil rights is fundamentally un-American. 

What has come of this? Well, it is reported that Will has gained quite a few supporters. People from across America have written to thank him and tell him that they think he is a shining example of free-thinking for truly standing-up for liberty.

Unfortunately, he is also called names, including a few gay slurs, by children at his school that are less supportive. Currently, Will has no plans to change his mind, though. Notably, he would like to be a lawyer when he is older.

Regardless of your view point on homosexuality or gender identity, I think it can only be a positive thing that there are kids in today’s schools who are actively questioning and learning about the Constitution, America’s laws and its people’s rights. After all, pledging allegiance to the Flag means nothing if a child doesn’t understand the full and potent reasons behind that act, and the essence of fairness and equality that America strives for. 

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Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to Uhuru.


Jordan G.
Jordan G4 years ago

Absolutely right Dale O.

But don't call me Shirley.

Jordan G.
Jordan G4 years ago

I don't believe for one moment that those were his contemporaneous, impromptu, or improvised words.

Further, while I understand, respect, and support the sentiment behind his position, what about not standing in support of some other groups one might have heard of: Women? Native Americans? Blacks? Latinos? Immigrants? The impoverished? Mentally challenged? Physically challenged? Unfairly or unreasonably or inhumanely incarcerated?

How about VETERANS? They might be the reason you are here, but they are definitely the reason you're still here.
How about mother nature? Animals? Our bloated deficit (which impact him at 10 more than me at my age)?

And yes LGBTU...VWXYZ, too (not last -- there's no order to this), of course, but the point is once you stand (under his theory), everyone else is cut off.

So "well done," whatever he did. Let's remember everyone else, too.

Dale O.

Good for him, there are many who are afraid to take affirmative actions to protest injustice especially when one can be subject to name calling and bullying.

Kay W said: "But encouraging future leaders to abandon their loyalty because they disagree with current policies promises exactly what Osama bin Laden has predicted: defeat from within."
Various forms of dissent is not disloyalty.

Rosalie G, since God made everyone if one holds a religious belief, it goes to say that gays have rights as well. Since there are a number of single people or even married couples who do not 'go forth and multiply,' what about them, is God going to recall their man or woman card?

Dale O.

David H, how are gays 'infringing' on your rights? By existing or holding Gay Pride parades perhaps? You don't want to hear about gay issues continually? Are they holding court in your living room or something? I imagine that a number of people said the same about the black civil rights movement in the 50's, 'why are they forcing us to listen to them' and that sort of sentiment. I imagine that you won't hear about gay rights when they have equal rights. Children are not 'recruited' into becoming gay, by the way. A person is either gay or they are not. AIDS is a disease that gays and heterosexuals can both get, so your point there is nitpicking.

Gregory J said that: "If he wants to quietly sit while the rest of the class recites the pledge, fine enough. But activism should be undertaken outside the classroom, picketing on the sidewalk or by writing letters to their elected representatives, NOT BY HIGHJACKING the learning of the other students!!!"

Oh me, oh my...all that Caps Lock angst. 'Hijacking the learning of other students?' Surely you jest. How is learning possibly 'highjacked?' You would think that his act stole the other student's brains and turned them into zombies unable to learn another lesson.

Hazel G.
Hazel G4 years ago

Awesome kid.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin7 years ago

A strong kid. He will have a great future. And he's probably the only one in his school that truly understand the pledge. I'm in full support of him and his understanding family!

charley h.
Charley H8 years ago

Good for him.

Casey Broughton
Casey Broughton8 years ago

GO YOU! that's awesome. I wish I'd had the guts and the brains to do the same at his age. I just hope he can hang in there, I know other kids must be giving him hell.

Leia P.
Leia P.8 years ago

a brave little boy

Heather A.
Heather A8 years ago

I am so proud of that kid! I could see the ten-year-old version of myself doing something like that. I never thought I'd hear such an inspiring speech from a child.