American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
November 16th, 2009
10:24 AM ET

Taking a stand by sitting down

Jay Phillips is a 10-year-old boy from Arkansas who is taking a stand, by sitting down. Phillips is refusing to pledge allegiance to the flag in his fifth grade classroom until he says gays and lesbians have equal rights. John Roberts spoke to Phillips on CNN's American Morning Monday.


Filed under: Controversy • Gay Rights
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Not an Idiot

    Wow, all the idiots who actually believe that this action is in anyways disrespectful to those who fought and died for freedom in this country, or those who died to bring freedom to another country should re-examine their beliefs. This child has a better understanding of freedom and what it really means, than you do. Freedom, which was earned with blood should be celebrated in exactly the same way this boy is doing. You are basically saying that this boy's Freedom should be limited out of respect for those that fought so bravely to earn FREEDOM. Does not compute. Grow up, a fifth grader's making you look bad.

    November 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  2. Lee Delaino

    For John Roberts to suggest that we've seen the democratic process "at work" in the process of the 31 state votes on the issue of gay marriage is proof that CNN is unable to recognize what's really at issue in America. When has taking a vote on minority rights made sense? Of course these ballot measures have failed. So would desegregation laws had they been taken to a popular vote. This isn't the "democratic process at work." It's mob rule. This child-cleary a part of a thinking, rational family, has said clearly, that America's priorities are wonked. CNN has done nothing much to change this besides sensationalizing the entire issue (and many others) while offering shallow, at best, representation of fairness.

    November 19, 2009 at 11:00 am |
  3. TimStrife27

    Hey Jeremy, news flash: The African-Americans fought for their rights against riot police, lynch mobs, fire hoses, the KKK, and worse by peacefully asserting their rights as Americans through civil disobedience. A ten-year-old kid's renouncement of his country and his flag just so he can have his 15 minutes of fame is completely different. Did African-Americans turn against America while seeking its aid? No! Biting the hand that feeds you.

    And BearEyes, you have overlooked one fatal flaw in your arguement: Although the rights of African-Americans were never put to a vote, they were SOLD as human chattels for hundreds of years, freed in the bloodiest of American wars, then thrown back under the yoke of oppression until (arguably) the 1960s. Civil rights? They weren't even treated as people, and even if there had been a vote, they could not have voted in it, unlike LGBT people today.

    Finally, Bertina, America never dies. Maybe you (and most of the other liberals up there) would rather see our pledge ("loyalty oath", one called it) dissolved, and see the flag torn down and dragged through the dirt of our streets before you set it alight. Even if, as many say, Jeff127, ArmyMom, Mike, Becky and others will be "long dead" when this blundering child "takes power", even if I am the last man standing I will defend to the death the true America. Surely there is one more patriot left in this country! Or have my great-grandfathers, uncles, friends, and kin all died for naught?

    November 18, 2009 at 2:28 am |
  4. Andrew

    This is the problem today. If you don't believe in this country, if you don't support such a great country that gives you freedom then leave. To many people have died for this country and for those who believe in it. People need to quit using and hiding behind the rights and freedoms if they do not pledge their alegiance to such a great nation

    November 18, 2009 at 12:58 am |
  5. Paul W

    Congratulations to this brave boy. This should be a lesson to all Americans: Have courage and do what you know is right.
    Say the pledge if you want to, but do not deny another's right to be silent...that's the American way.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:57 pm |
  6. Jennifer

    This young man is an inspiration. He is taking a stand on something he believes in, and he's doing it with intelligence and logic. He's not pro-gay or anti-American or disrespectful or rude. He's not trying to hurt anyone or turn up his nose at the military. He's refusing to accept what is clearly unacceptable. The pledge says for ALL but it doesn't apply to ALL, does it?

    Because this young man has a social conscience, there are actual adults on here that think he is evil? Seriously? He didn't spit on the flag or the graves of the fallen! He didn't flip the bird at old ladies or shoot a classmate! He didn't hurl insults at children like some of the people who posted on here did! He is a young man standing up for what he believes in! And what he believes in is a country where ALL citizens are treated fairly and justly. What is wrong with that? I wish more people had the guts to do something for the greater good that didn't involve violence or hatred cast towards others.

    Way to go, Will! I hope you do become a lawyer, kiddo! You've got the analytical brain for it! I wish you well, young man!

    November 17, 2009 at 9:48 pm |
  7. Jeremy

    people have fought and died for the rights that many of us enjoy, but still some Americans are not equally protected under the laws and Constitution of the United States! It is through acts like these that African-Americans gained rights that were theirs anyway! This is not about respect for a teacher, a flag or some tired, worn conception of taking America back to the "good ole days" (where i remind you, white, men dominated and women and minorities were subordinate)! This is exactly what America needs more of! First, this kid has career goals! He wants to be an attorney! Then, he's standing up for inclusiveness and breaking down the increasingly hole-riddeled walls of discrimination and bigotry! God be with him, his mind, his soul and his spirit! Stand up! Take Your Place kid! All it takes for evil to prevail is for good men to do or say nothing! Continue this way of life! Remember, God preserves those who serve him! Do his will and love thy neighbor, and you will not fail! Pray for those who fail to see the error of their ways!

    November 17, 2009 at 8:56 pm |
  8. TimStrife27

    Jeff127 and Army Mom, and those who shared their sentiments, are completely correct. To protest the Pledge is to protest America and to spit upon the lives and legacies of the millions that died and are dying for her today. If one shirks the Pledge, one cannot call themselves American. And to think that the media-once a bastion of American civil liberties-would turn this anti-American child into some folk hero is beyond sickening. Would CNN glorify a flag-burner? No! This is no different, if not even worse. My family and friends have shed their blood and, in the case of some, given their lives for our precious America. Don't let ignorant youth like this become heroes.

    November 17, 2009 at 8:51 pm |
  9. Robert

    WOW.....This child is wise beyond his years and is truely an american in every sense of the word! His love for all humanity and his courage to take a stand in his convictions are a credit to his parents who must be very proud of him. His fathers support and the love of his son was truely impressive. It would seem to me this young man has been allowed to grow and develope his beliefs and shows no fears in doing so....The sad thing is the redicule he faces from his peers and friends...truely shameful.....Stay strong young man America needs you and we hope to see this played 20 years from now when your running for office.....Parents congrats on the love and support you have shown your child on such a heated topic in todays politics!

    November 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm |
  10. Chicago24

    Sometimes you gotta fight with your brain.

    Way to go, kid!

    November 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  11. Mike Roberts

    To Will, keep standing up for what you believe in and don't let anyone, kid or adult, keep you from doing that.
    Now, for all the idiots that voted, in a poll, that it would be disrespectful of our nation, for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
    I am a American and proud to be one. But, I also know what the phrase, "liberty and justice for all," means too. And this nation does not follow it. And it doesn't mean rights and justice for gays, it also includes, sentencing for crimes, religious beliefs, and for people who come to this nation for a better life. So, learn what the pledge means first, before you open your mouth.

    November 17, 2009 at 10:58 am |
  12. Jason Bray

    Was it because I mentioned the word of GOD that my comment was not inputted. Or the fact that I do not agree with this boy's stance? This blog seems to be onesided right now.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  13. Chris

    Congrats to this kid and any other person that does what they believe in. As a kid I stopped saying the lord's prayer which we had to say before school every morning. I got a lot of flak from the teacher until my dad called the school to say it was my right to not say it since I am athiest. Keep it up little dude!!! You are really smart and are gonna do a lot for this world.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  14. Becky

    You put my last comment in but where are the first two? You know, the one that says that American's should pledge their flag. There should be some form of allegiance to a country and the people that gave this immature 10 year old the right to sit down. This is a REPUBLIC–for you guys out there that took history in public schools–that means that the majority votes on what they deem best for the country. That doesn't mean that little 10 year olds get to be disrespectful to all that is good about this country. The people in this country from the age of 40 down are a bunch of spoiled rotten brats that can't think of what is good for this country only what is good for #1-THEMSELVES. They are the most selfish generations to come along yet. Young man, I hope that you do some real research into what made this country great. Degrading your own country and flag-that will not help to make this country great. If you want to make it fair for all, it doesn't start with being disrespectful. Yes, not saying the pledge of allegiance is very disrespectful to all the men and women of all colors that fought hard to give you your freedoms. The best way to fight what you think you need to fight for is to get educated. Know who and what make this country what it is. Appreciate the fact that the flag and the allegiance stand for your right to ask "why". You are going at it the wrong way. All you are doing is alienating many good people who have given up their lives and the lives of their family members for your right to question. They didn't do that so that you could show a total disrespect for their sacrifices. Not saying the pledge does anything to make this problem go away. It is because of that pledge you have the right to grow up and become a lawyer to help fight for the rights of these people. I don't agree with you and perhaps as you research and mature you will amend your way of thinking on these matters. Anyone who can't say the pledge to such a wonderful country is either misinformed or should just leave it. Let's call the kettle black. You are not old enough to understand the ramifications of what you are doing. I understand that but you are giving the liberals a foothold into removing all that is good about our country.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  15. jean

    My children when in high school, did not say the pledge either. A teacher suggested to my son that he go live in a Communist country! My daughter observed that most kids were looking around,talking,joking with other students during the pledge.They took a lot of heat,but my husband( who is a disabled vet) and I stood by their decision.Our freedoms also gives you the right not to say the pledge.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:18 am |
  16. mark

    R u kidding, me this kid has been coached, he doen't even know what gay or lesbian means, as well as racism, what a ridiculous ploy. This sounds like ballon boy all over again, these people, are pimping out their 10 year old for cash. what a waste of time and money.
    I thought cnn, would have more common sense, than to cover crap like this. focus on healthcare and the state of the economy, that the obama adminstartion was going to fix, and has totally dismanteld, and ruine.

    November 17, 2009 at 9:17 am |
  17. doc M

    my hats off to this little boy! as a doctor and female...i can PERSONALLY truly say that we are still not treated as equal....and still have alot of work to do....i hope he grows up to work at this issue amongst all the others he mentioned!

    November 17, 2009 at 8:49 am |
  18. Becky

    What's a matter CNN- You have taken away my rights to say what I think about this matter!! You have censored my opinion!!! Is that constitutional? Is that legal? Maybe we should find out!!

    November 17, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  19. Tony (pa.)

    This young boy has rights and if he chooses not to Pledge Allegiance. He is taking a stance and I admire him for that. Do I think he should say the Pledge Allegiance I say he should not have to if he chooses not to. I believe in the Pledge but people do have rights. We allow illegals into this country and many who enter are not yet citizens. When they attend our schools or events, do they say the Pledge, I doubt it, do we force them, I doubt it. So how could we force this young boy to say it. I say the Pledge whenever it is said or I am at a ceremony but no one can force me. Is this a school Policy and is this Policy noted to all students prior to his attendance, I doubt it. Based on that you cannot force him or her.

    November 17, 2009 at 7:46 am |
  20. Tony

    I have listened to Sarah Palin and she is not qualified to be President and not evn Governor. Shae is a terrible speaker and she lacks knowledge on most issues. She struggles when asked a question from any commentator. Oprah asked her a few questions and she acted like a Freshman in high school. She appears to be programmed. If she wrote this book I would be totally surprised, they cannot be her words for sure someone would have had to transform her words into reallity for sure.
    I wish hwr well but she will never be in the political world she will not be wanted. Just ask John McCaine to be upfront and ask him to tell the truth what he thinks about her. She hurt him terribly during his run for President.

    November 17, 2009 at 7:31 am |
  21. radical

    Jeff127 and armymom get off your high horses. This kid has stood up for a cause that needs to be stood up for. He is not disrespecting adults or the flag or the men and women who have given us liberty and freedom. This smart little boy isn't what is wrong with America. He is standing up for what he believes and maybe if more people did that in this country some stuff would get done. Jeff and Armymom you are narrowed minded people and if this country relied on people like you it would collapse, oh wait we did rely on a person like you two and he drove us straight into the crapper.

    November 17, 2009 at 2:04 am |
  22. Tony

    No one can deny that racism exist in the "World". As I watched this Video I tried to find something else besides the marriage issue for gays that fell under the Liberty and Justice topic but I could not find anything. Anything else falls under another category. We have laws now that hopefully will protect an individuals right to choose yet this is not a perfect world yet. My "Opinion" is that the marriage issue is depriving an individual of there right to choose.
    THAT is what "I think" should be the ONLY focus of this act.
    Anything else falls under liberties already granted yet cannot totally control all of the persons who dwell on being racist no matter where you are in the World.
    It is so that in some countries this boy would be censored.
    The U.S is not perfect, as no society is right now, and the positive on this is that the boy can freely express his opinions UNDER our laws.
    Even if I agree or not that is why I admire America.
    Some of my good friends are gay. AND some of my favorite Celebrities are gay. So I have no issue with the Racism issue.
    This is only about being deprived of marrige. As time goes by I bet marrige will be granted some day to gays. As we see that the President can be African American with a Landslide win.
    As a republican I was in joy for America finally overcoming obsticals toward freedom for all.

    November 17, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  23. BearEyes

    Will Phillips clearly knows more about civil rights than John Roberts does. Roberts glibly passes off the vote on marriage equality as "the people have spoken", but what he fails to notice is that gays and lesbians are the ONLY group in the USA who have had their civil rights put to a vote. This is not democracy as Roberts puts it – it is a violation of the 1st amendment to the US constitution as tyranny (mob rule) of the majority to suppress a minority. No other group (blacks, jews, asians, hispanics, etc.) have suffered the indignity of tyranny over their civil rights. Will Phillips gets it. John Roberts does not.

    November 16, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  24. Doug

    To the Mom who thinks the boy is disrespecting men in uniform ...
    Those men and women who protected, fought and died for our country actually fought for this boys right to stand up for what he believes ...
    I personally do not agree with his 'stand' but he has the right to his protest.
    In no way do I feel that this boy or his father is disrespecting them or you.
    Everyone (even this boy) has the right to stand up for what he (or she) believes and this is his choice ... my choice would be different as well but I respect his.
    As I respect people who disagree with me.
    We live in America – the these are our rights.
    No malice is intended in my voice .... must agree does not sound like an 10 year old I know – but I do not know this boy and neither do most of us.

    November 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  25. Bill Thompson

    Could you please forward to the young man in Arkansas my utmost thanks, respect and support for what he is doing. His dad and mom also deserve a great deal of recognition for allowing their son to think for himself.
    Two of my children also sat during the pledge and the singing of the national anthem and also received some very insulting remarks from teachers.
    It's a shame that teachers can't recognize that their job is to teach our kids to think, not agree.

    Thanks so much son, keep up the good work and if we can ever do anything to help-let us know.

    November 16, 2009 at 8:32 pm |
  26. Bryn

    Why is it that when this bright and deep-thinking child refuses to pledge to the flag (something that is not mandatory, by the way) some people are calling him un-american? If people refuse to pledge for religious reasons are they un-american too? why is everyone so quick to label other people whom they don't agree with as "un-american". that's enough of that nonsense, for goodness sakes. The whole embodiement of being American is having the freedom to live your convictions and fight for what you believe. This child is standing up for what he believes to be right, which is something we all should do in our lives. Mateo1970 is absolutely correct – this kid IS the meaning of Patriotism, and the interviewer was ridiculous in suggesting that just because voters disagree with gay marriage that that should be the end of it. As Mateo1970 so wisely pointed out – voters also disagreed with giving African Americans equal rights and eventually (thankfully) the gov't stepped in to right the wrong. This 10 year old boy understands this more than most adults do. Good for you J. Phillips – and although telling your teacher to jump off a bridge was wrong, it seems as if your father helped you to understand that and make amends to the teacher. Don't worry, we've all lost our tempers at one time or another. Stay strong little man.

    November 16, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  27. Steve

    I find it interesting how many pleasant posts there are of this story. A similar young boy refused to stand up for the pledge recently, but his motives were slightly different. He is a non-believer and had an issue with the words "under God" which were inserted into the pledge in the 1950's. The comments that were posted for this young man were of a very different nature.

    November 16, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  28. melissa

    What Jay is doing is not rehearsed or soft, an act like this does take incredible courage for someone of that age- who would normally be fighting to fit in. Studying to be a lawyer at 10- bringing into question the truth behind the Pledge, brave enough to speak in front of the nation on behalf of his actions, I think we'd all be lucky to have such a gifted and open hearted child.

    November 16, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  29. britt in wisconsin

    this kid has very strong beliefs for anyone his age and obviously is a deep thinker. i'm sure he has a great respect for those who have died for his country as well as anyone else. those of you who think he is disrespecting the troops need to go look in any school in the country. when kids are finally taught what the pledge of alligance actually means (which is waaaay too late in my opinion) they are not taught about supporting the troops. no one ever says that by saying the pledge of alligance you are showing support for the troops. i support the troops 110% and am so grateful that those men and women are giving their lives for freedom and for so many people they have never met, but that has nothing to do with this kid. let him stand up for what he believes. hes not promoting violence. and hes only 10!!

    November 16, 2009 at 3:56 pm |
  30. Emelia Soderquist

    Everyone should rejoice that here everyone and anyone can
    say whatever they wish.

    This young boy, in my opinion, hasn't lived long enough or contributed enough to his country to sway anything his way at this point.

    I hope he can direct his passion to other things as well – where passion is needed. At this point, he comes off to my generation
    (many times removed) as someone who might be referred to
    as a smartass youngster who simply doesn't appreciate the
    fact that he lives in America !

    November 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  31. Mateo1970

    It's interesting that John Roberts suggests that if the voters reject gay marriage (as they overwhelmingly rejected African-American civil rights when put to a popular vote) that should somehow satisfy Jay. Luckily, Jay is much more intelligent than that.

    November 16, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  32. Mateo1970

    Amazing to see such an intelligent young man and how it threatens people who are afraid of courage. The CNN host was somewhat disingenuous in acting like he didn't know it was an anti-gay epithet. This kid is what patriotism is all about.

    November 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  33. Bertina

    Good thing you will be long dead Mike when his generation takes over the world.

    November 16, 2009 at 3:04 pm |
  34. Mike

    are you kidding me? liberty and justice for all is now a pro-gay tag line? wow kid tell me who wrote your script so i can complain to them

    November 16, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  35. jon

    at a loss for words, this kid is my hero. i only wish i could have been that headstrong at that age

    November 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  36. RM

    What a bright young man. Hopefully more of his generation feels similarly.

    November 16, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  37. Christopher Jamison

    What amazing clarity this young man has. He is wise beyond his years to realize at the age of ten that fundamental rights cannot be denied by ballot initiative. I hope he gets lots of scholarship offers for law school!

    November 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  38. Army Mom

    The boy has a total disrespect for adults and more importantly for the men and women who gave him the RIGHT to stand up and pledge his allegiance to the flag of the Unites States of America or to refuse to stand as he has done. And for his father and the reporter to sit there and smirk is ridiculous and should not be tolerated. If this were my child he would be taught respect and there are consequences for your actions.

    November 16, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  39. jeff127

    This is the epitome of what is wrong with America. A 10 year old gets national coverage for being disrespectful to our flag. For disrespecting the memories of all those who have died for it. Who decided that he should be heard. Oh nevermind, this is CNN. I doubt my comment will get posted anyway. There is a review process unlike at FOX

    November 16, 2009 at 12:54 pm |
  40. Judy S.

    As a mother of 2 who have graduated from the school system, I, personally have a problem with the pledge of allegiance. Why, in this country, are our school children required to recite a loyalty oath every morning? Those who don't believe it is a loyalty oath, it is. Second, how may children even understand what they are reciting? how many children, outside of High School, and many in High School, even understand what "I pledge allegiance" means? They are told in Kindergarten to take home a piece of paper and have their parents help them memorize it and they do it to please the teacher, do they understand what it means, you know they don't. I would rather see the children taught what the words mean, then change them to I pledge allegiance to my Country.

    November 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm |
  41. babaelf

    What an extraordinarily brave and thoughtful young man, who despite the initial fall-out from school officials, now has to bear the brunt of name-calling and the mean-spiritedness of so many of his young peers at school. Hang in there, hang in there, young man, for even if you were 100% wrong in your views, God with support you 110% for your honesty in the face of hypocrisy. You are blessed and rare gem......

    November 16, 2009 at 11:23 am |
  42. saffrin

    How admirable of this briliiant J phillips. I wish him the best. How many his age ever give a thought to what they recite? Actually, how many adults give it a thought? Gotta admire JP. May his ideals not be tarnished. May we all stop and think how we can learn from our children.

    November 16, 2009 at 11:12 am |
  43. WARRIORSMK

    THREE CHEERS FOR THE YOUNG MAN REFUSING THE PLEDGE.
    UNLIKE MOST ADULTS HE UNDERSTANDS THAT NO ONE IS EQUAL UNTIL ALL ARE EQUAL. AMERICA IS A REPRESENTATIVE DEMOCRACY – THE CONSTITUTION IS, IN PART, TO PROTECT MINORITIES FROM THE PREJUDICES OF THE MAJORITY.

    November 16, 2009 at 11:02 am |