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April 20th, 2012
Brad Rollins’ Blog: Sam Brannon refuses to pledge U.S. flag


Sam Brannon, the gypsy politician who is running for Hays County Commissioner, refuses to pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag, saying it is a matter of personal conscience.

In an exchange about a year ago, Pct. 2 Constable James Kohler rose in court to call out Brannon for standing silently without his hand over his heart during the ceremonial recitation of the pledge at the beginning of each court session.

“I’ve never seen anybody not salute, not put their hand over their heart, when we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. If they can’t pledge allegiance to that flag, they need to get the hell out of the United States,” Kohler said, adding that it did not likewise bother him that Brannon declines to bow his head for the court’s invocation.

“Who said court isn’t interesting?” County Judge Bert Cobb quipped.

Brannon stood up to say, “Thanks for noticing, constable. My allegiance is to God and my fellow man.”

There will surely be voters to whom this is a non-issue and, admittedly, it doesn’t exactly keep me up at night. But I did want to put this information in the public sphere for those Republican voters to whom it does make a difference whether their aspiring commissioner refuses to pledge our nation’s flag.

Find the full video of court sessions here.

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28 thoughts on “Brad Rollins’ Blog: Sam Brannon refuses to pledge U.S. flag

  1. Not a feud. I like Sam personally and he’s certainly made a splash during his short time here. I have to grudgingly admire him a bit for that. But my personal opinion is that it would be disastrous and embarrassing to our community for him to be a Hays County Commissioner. This isn’t a game of paddy cakes; it’s real life. The consequences of electing a shadowy figure with a mysterious background aren’t a joking matter.

  2. He may be disastous, but are you saying he would be disastrous because of not saying the pledge, or are you saying that it’s a non-issue, but you’re happy to use it, to sway a few votes?

    I say the pledge, and mean it deeply when I say it, but I really would like to focus on issues that have a material impact on Hays County.

  3. Ted, I take issue with the characterization that raising these sort of issues is some how indicative of a podunk mentality as if urban politics are all high-minded policy deliberations.

  4. I visited with the county auditor yesterday to look at spending/debt issues and will be writing about it with some depth at some point in the near future. I agree those are the more fundamental issues in the race and we’re not going to ignore them.

  5. It still seems like you’re lifting plays straight out of O’Dell’s playbook: Use your media outlet as a beating stick to “illuminate” people about the bogeymen in our community. This attack in particular seems to be off-kilter, and with the specific intent of skewing the election, rather than just trying to “put this information in the public sphere”. If it looks like a duck…

  6. Brad, for an outside view, might I recommend talking to Peggy Venable from Americans for Prosperity? Her organization has been focusing on spending and debt issues from across the state, and I know she’s spoken at least twice in Hays County (including just last Saturday in San Marcos). Unlike Herzog and Brannon, she doesn’t have a “dog in the fight”, and she is most definitely a Republican, working with a Republican organization.

  7. Ouch on being compared to O’Dell.

    I guess the larger issue to me that these little pieces make up — the pledge thing, the Mariposa thing, the extensive use of campaign funds as “reimbursements,” calling his substitute teaching “education consulting” — is simply that Brannon isn’t who he claims to be. He’s a chameleon and an opportunist looking for a job.

    I’ve been upfront, as I always try to be, about where I personally stand in this race. People can take my opinions or leave them as they see fit.

  8. I appreciate that you’ve been up front. Based on the work you’ve done with the sheriff’s race, when I see pieces like this one, it just leaves me cold. Maybe I am just a dreamer, with high hopes for more substantive debate in a college town.

    I won’t compare you to O’Dell, then. Perhaps an aspiring Rove or Carville. They’re masters at this sort of thing, and I don’t much care for either one of them. Give me an aspiring Woodward or Bernstein.

  9. Remember that our President won’t say “under God” in the same pledge. Bad vibes for a Republican…

  10. Brad, the way this story is written looks and feels like a hit job, rather than reporting. The headline implies that he still refuses to pledge his allegiance Old Glory and to the republic for which it stands. It suggests this is true today. How do we know? The incident described is a year old, and there is no recent update.

    I wouldn’t know Sam Brannon if he fell out of the sky and landed on me, but my big takeaway from this article is that a grown man (the Precinct 2 constable) actually rose in court to tattle on a fellow citizen for not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Yikes.

    Was Brannon abstaining to be provocative? If so, the constable should be doubly embarrassed, because not only did he tattle, but in doing so he also played right into Brannon’s hand. It was just a bad move all around.

    BTW, though I got a kick out of Brannon’s response, his logic is faulty. Pledging allegiance to the flag doesn’t mean he has to abandon his allegiance to God or to his fellow man. He can even slot the US flag beneath both God and man on his Objects of Allegiance list, right after Shiner Bock and hemp clothing. Nothing in the pledge prevents him from this. Though if, like Sam Brannon, you plan to run for office, it’s probably a good idea to remove that hat, cover that heart, and say those words. You can throw in “and hemp clothing!” if it helps you sleep at night, but I’d keep it to a whisper. The constable is just looking for another excuse to raise his hand…

  11. Please people can’t we get back to substantive issues like whether or not our Council Members are ex-porn actors?

  12. If you don’t respect the flag, you don’t respect the citizens who live in and have fought for the US. If he’s doing it to be provocative, we don’t need teenagers games in our courthouse. Now comparing Brad to Odell is totally wrong. Brad is showing true facts about Brannon’s life to give voters an idea of who their candidate is. No they are not pretty facts, so Brad’s not being “nice”. Odell, on the other hand, would decide who he didn’t like and dig deep into his foes life, relatives of his foes, etc. if he couldn’t find anything interesting, he would create his own story based on what was going on in his depraved mind.

  13. I would argue that Brannon’s comments — those that I heard before the recording above seems to cut him off — do not necessarily represent faulty reasoning. At its best, publicly pledging allegiance to a country’s flag is too vague an exercise to be meaningful. At its worst, it fosters unthinking obedience to the will of the mob or to state authority, especially when utilized in the classroom. 

    What specific obligations does one make by publicly performing the Pledge? If we are not slaves, if we truly own our own lives, then all of our relationships (including the state/citizen one) are voluntary. Voluntary obligations are a two-way street. Why does the Pledge not mention the obligations of the state to its citizen, and why all the social pressure to perform the Pledge? I’ll tell you why — because the purposes or primary effects of the Pledge, especially its use in compulsory schooling, are not to specify obligations and establish common values. The Pledge — and state schools in general — actually foster docility and obedience, and serve to reinforce the state’s authority and morally legitimize all political power. Also, I think the Pledge fosters the unifying sense that we are all *children* in the same family, headed by Mama (if you lean far liberal) or Papa (if you lean far conservative). We should aspire to behave as adults, and take on the obligations of beings fully responsible for their actions.

    When I was in K-12, no school authority told us participation in the Pledge was voluntary, and neither did my parents. Yet people under the age of consent are expected to continually take part in this “voluntary,” mindless exercise? How American, how individualist, how becoming of a free people! Helps explains how local, state, and federal authorities have been allowed to do some of the things they have done in the 20th and 21st centuries.

    On the lips of virtually every person who exhorted their fellow man to support their country’s participation in WW1 (and every other senseless act of state violence) was likely the sentiment, “for God and country. The purpose or effect of semi-compulsory patriotic ceremonies; to make you salivate at the Pavlovian bell of nationalism and patriotism and to get you to instinctively pledge your (and someone else’s) property and life to the state, and to whatever cause you believe Mama/Papa would support.

    Under this interpretation, Brannon *does* have to severely compromise his allegiance to God or to his fellow man if he publicly performs the Pledge. This is because publicly performing the Pledge imposes unclear obligations that can change at the whim of the mob or of politicians, and because the state sometimes requires us to violate our religious and humanitarian obligations. 

    Kohler, as a high-ranking law enforcement official entrusted with protecting life, liberty, and property, should be ashamed of his tattling. It is unbecoming of anyone, much less a peace officer, to be monitoring participation or nonparticipation in a “voluntary” patriotic exercise; such behavior reeks of collectivism and authoritarianism. Kohler as a private citizen is free to opine on whether he thinks someone is patriotic, or even whether he thinks another citizen is worthy to reside in the U.S. However, God help us if he ever gets the authority to use force to actualize such judgements. It is improper for him to make such pronouncements while in uniform in a governmental setting. 

    Countries are legal fictions. In the real world, and with regards to morality, only people exist. Understanding human relations, especially in the modern era, requires nuanced analysis. Using that understanding to promote human flourishing requires the realization that only people matter. People love, hate, suffer, befriend, and betray, whereas countries are abstractions incapable of these things. Determining moral obligations requires first acknowledging that there are no countries, only human beings acting. Individual action can be voluntary, involuntary, thoughtful, or mindless, but it is still must be the basis of moral judgement if we are to call ourselves free.

    Though they may call themselves free, people constantly seem to treat the idea of country as if it is a real entity with whom they have a relationship (and to whom they owe allegiance). This tribalist instinct gone berserk is an aspect of human psychology that used to be more adaptive, but in the modern era it has been, and will continue to be, utterly devastating. It is a demon we would do well to exorcise, lest it continue to foster bigotry, hatred, violence, collectivism and authoritarianism.

  14. “If you don’t respect the flag, you don’t respect the citizens who live in and have fought for the US.”

    Wrong, hysterical, and nonsensical. What does a patriotic display have to do with a person’s devotion to the ideals of political freedoms of assembly, speech, religion, due process rights, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, private property, government by the consent of the governed, et cetera? Answer: Nothing. Adults, free human beings, devote themselves to the welfare of other human beings and to philosophical/religious/ethical ideals. They do not pledge their undying devotion to states, governments, countries, and mindless slogans. They have no use for nationalistic symbols and ceremonies and songs. Grow up.

  15. He is full of arrogance and no appreciation for the opprotunity this country provides for him and the rest of us. Nor does he respect the people that served Her in the past and still serve Her today. What a punk.

  16. Thanks for the link Ellie ! Just goes to show why Liz isnt our Judge anymore ! Sic Em Will !! She never got it ! Maybe its because she was too worried who was gonna go walk her dogs ! Good Riddance !

  17. This is an issue that needs to be written about, while some may not see it as the Top 10 or even 20, it’s still an isssue. Part of being in an elected office is taking an oath of office where you swear to preserve, protect, and defend the constituation and laws. The flag and the pledge fall into that as far as I’m concerned.

    Brannon is a gypsy as Brad wrote and he is correct on everything that he has written. Journalism and reporting is about opening eyes and empowering people to do their own homework and research into topics, especially in the politics field. I don’t care if the piece is about a county commissioner, school board, or the president; I research what is in the story and make my own decision. This is just the first step in a journey for the knowledge to make the right choice when we vote this year because an uneducated and uninformed voter is extremely dangerous.

  18. With so many important issues on which to take a stand, this pledge thing comes off as an unhealthy need for attention. Our commissioner needs to be able to bring diverse groups together, not polarize them. Will Conley has worked very hard and given a lot of his time to the position. I say let’s keep him.

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