Forced Patriot Acts

32 Pages Posted: 14 Jun 2005 Last revised: 6 Oct 2010

See all articles by Alan K. Chen

Alan K. Chen

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: 2004


This essay argues that there has been a historical recurrence of forced patriotism acts in times of national security crises and, consistent with that pattern, describes a post-9/11 resurgence in laws compelling students and teachers to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It then compares our nation's experience with forced patriotism measures with what has occurred in the context of other recurring civil liberties disputes during times of fear about national security. As Mark Tushnet and others have recently asserted, with respect to more tangible policy measures designed to address national security concerns, a form of social learning arguably occurs. Social learning proceeds, the argument goes, because courts and other institutions become more skeptical over time about contemporary government national security claims when, in retrospect, they look at past periods of civil liberties infringements that resulted because of public officials' exaggerated national security claims.

This essay argues that the same form of social learning has not occurred with respect to forced patriotism laws. Rather, these laws recur without regard to the lessons of history. It then offers some explanations about why social learning does not occur here to the same degree it occurs in other contexts, and observes that some of the preconditions necessary to achieve social learning do not exist in the forced patriotism context. The essay concludes with the somewhat ironic argument that social learning about forced patriotism may only occur if we do indeed teach the Pledge of Allegiance in schools. But it does not advocate the rote, daily repetition of the text, but rather a series of lessons in context so that schoolchildren learn about our society's shameful history of oppression of dissidents.

Keywords: first amendment, free speech, freedom of conscience, forced patriotism, national security, social learning

Suggested Citation

Chen, Alan K., Forced Patriot Acts (2004). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 81, No. 703, 2003-2004, Available at SSRN:

Alan K. Chen (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States
303-871-6283 (Phone)
303-871-6001 (Fax)

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