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EASTHAMPTON — After an impassioned argument from City Councilor Koni Denham to replace the Pledge of Allegiance with a moment of silence at some City Council meetings, the council voted to add a moment of silence of up to one minute after the pledge.

Denham brought up the idea of replacing the pledge at some meetings several months ago and the matter was referred to the rules and government relations subcommittee. After discussions there, the subcommittee brought forth a motion that JP Kwiecinski, chair of the subcommittee, called “a compromise,” adding the moment of silence at the discretion of the City Council president.

After Kwiecinski brought forth the motion, Denham read a passionate statement detailing reasons for concerns about saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

“The allegiance is loyalty of a subordinate to a superior,” said Denham, who noted that all American citizens are equals and should not feel subordinate to anyone. Denham also voiced multiple concerns about the writer of the pledge, Francis Bellamy, who Denham called a “Christian socialist,” and said that Bellamy perpetuated antisemitic and xenophobic stereotypes.

“Maybe there is no aspiration to be found in forced unity,” said Denham, who shared that she represented people who struggle with the concept of pledging allegiance.

Denham also claimed a strong respect for the flag itself and what it stands for, noting that there is a “distinction between the flag and the pledge.”

After Denham’s comments, Councilor Thomas Peake asked for clarification as to why the subcommittee felt the need to add a moment of silence. Kwiecinski noted that the subcommittee felt this was a good compromise on the issue and Councilor Brad Riley explained that adding something generally creates more inclusion while removing something does not.

While most councilors noted that they do not have an issue with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, many also noted that they wanted everyone to be able to voice their opinions on this issue without negative comments from the public, explaining that everyone should be able to voice their opinions respectfully.

Denham, who voted against the motion to add a moment of silence, said, “It’s insignificant. It’s performative.”
The motion passed five to three, with Peake abstaining.

The council also voted to recognize May as Jewish American Heritage Month and to reappoint City Auditor Hetal Patel and Assistant City Auditor Kathy Smith through May 5, 2027.

dhackett@thereminder.com | + posts