Mississippi Judge Jails Attorney for Not Reciting Pledge

October 7, 2010 - 3:19 PM

Danny Lampley

Attorney Danny Lampley is seen in an undated photo provided by the Lee County, Miss., Sheriff's Department. Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn jailed Oxford attorney Danny Lampley for several hours Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2010 for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in court. (AP Photo/Lee County, Miss., Sheriff's Department)

(AP) - A Mississippi judge jailed a lawyer for several hours for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, ordering the attorney to "purge himself" of contempt by standing and repeating the oath like the rest of the courtroom.

After Oxford attorney Danny Lampley spent about five hours in the county jail Wednesday, Chancery Judge Talmadge Littlejohn let him go free. Lampley, 49, was released so that he could represent another client, the judge said in a later order.

Lampley told The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal he respected the judge but wasn't going to back down.

"I don't have to say it because I'm an American," Lampley told the newspaper. "I'm just not going to back off on this."

Lampley was representing a client in a divorce case at the time of the contempt order, according to the judge's calendar.

"Lampley shall purge himself of said criminal contempt by complying with the order of this Court by standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in open court," according to the order, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Neither Littlejohn, who is in his mid-70s, nor Lampley responded to telephone calls from the AP.

Bear Atwood, an ACLU attorney in Mississippi, said there was a long established precedent that a person can't be compelled to stand and say the pledge.

"It's simply not permissible to force someone to do that," Atwood said.

The Pledge of Allegiance has faced challenges since it was published in 1892.

In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that children in public schools could not be forced to salute the flag and say the pledge. In 1954, the words "under God" were added to the pledge, when members of Congress at the time said they wanted to set the United States apart from "godless communists."

In March, an appellate court upheld references to God on U.S. currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance, rejecting arguments they violate the constitutional separation of church and state.

Atwood said Lampley could file a complaint with Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, but the best way to handle the situation was to "educate the judge on why he shouldn't do it again."

Littlejohn is in his second term as a chancery judge and presides over divorces and child custody disputes. Judges in Mississippi are elected, though they run in nonpartisan races.

Littlejohn is running unopposed for re-election in November.

He is a former state lawmaker. He ran for a congressional seat as a Democrat in 1996, finishing second out of three candidates in the Democratic primary. He lost a runoff.