Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) When U.S. Marines reached the top of Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945, they hoisted the American flag as a symbol of pride and victory. The flag also hangs over City Council chambers in Missoula, a symbol of fidelity to some, but not to others.

Several City Council members on Monday night continued to sit during the Pledge of Allegiance – a move that has grown more controversial in recent weeks. During Monday's City Council meeting, one military veteran condemned the action, as did one City Council member.

“If you can't stand for God and country, what do you stand for?” said Dan Wahle, a retired Lt. Commander in the Navy. “You're an embarrassment to yourself and the great state of Montana. To the rest of the council, thank you for your service, your time and dedication.”

On Monday, council member Kristen Jordan remained seated, scrolling through her computer during the pledge. Council member Jennifer Savage also remained seated. Council member Daniel Carlino, who has sat in the past, waited until after the pledge to join the council meeting.

It's not the first time the three officials have remained seated. When asked why last month, Jordan condemned the question and subsequent story as “click bait” and sensationalism, adding that the pledge's promise of “liberty and justice for all” was a fallacy.

Savage said she remains seated in silent protest of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision that revoked a woman's right to choose an abortion. While she said she supports veterans, police officers and firefighters, she chooses to sit during the pledge to exercise her right to protest “because, unlike the federally protected right to choose, the right to protest is a right I still have.”

Council member John Contos, whose term on City Council expires this month, criticized their decision to sit during the pledge.

“I have an incredibly deep respect for the flag and I think that's probably not an area to protest,” he said on Monday. “We have lots of venues to do that, but I think the flag, there's just been too many people who died for it. I think we should really stop and think about how much people have sacrificed for our flag.”

While some view sitting during the Pledge as a show of disrespect to the country and those who have defended America, others have billed it as “no big deal.” Missoula resident Kevin Hunt defended the council members' right to remain seated.

“If someone doesn't stand for the pledge, the immediate accusation is that this person isn't patriotic,” he said. “The Constitution guarantees the right to free speech, and the right to free speech includes the right not to speak. Sometimes not doing something is the only way to draw attention to an issue. The flag is certainly strong enough to withstand somebody not standing when it goes by.”