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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Obama Did Not Ban the Pledge

Q: Did President Obama sign an executive order banning the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools?

A: No. That claim comes from a satirical story on a fake news website.


Did Obama sign Executive Order 13738, revoking the federal government’s official recognition of the Pledge of Allegiance and banning it in public schools? Did he say the language of the pledge is “divisive” and “contrary to America’s deepest held values”?


The rumor that President Barack Obama banned the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools originated from a satirical article posted last month by a fake news website under the headline “Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide.” The site is designed to look like ABC News, but uses the URL “abcnews.com.co,” the first tip-off that this isn’t a legitimate news site.

The made-up story begins: “Early this morning, President Obama made what could very well prove to be the most controversial move of his presidency with the signing of Executive Order 13738, which revokes the federal government’s official recognition of the Pledge of Allegiance.” It goes on to say the order makes it “illegal for any federally funded agency to display the pledge or for any federal employee to recite, or encourage others to recite, the pledge while on duty,” which also applies to “public schools.” Those who violate the order, the bogus story says, “can face fines of up to $10,000 and up to one year in federal prison.”

The satire becomes abundantly clear for those who read on. The story includes quotes from “Sock it Forward, a group that provides the homeless and those less fortunate with brand new socks” and “Fappy the Anti-Masturbation Dolphin.”

And then there’s this description of “abcnews.com.co” at the bottom:

abcnews.com.co: Thanks to ABC News President & CEO, Dr. Paul Horner for making ABC News the greatest website in the universe. We need writers! Contact us! Looking to advertise? Contact us! All trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, product names, images and logos appearing on the site are the property of their respective owners. Do you have a complaint? We love to hear them! You can call our complaint department directly at (785) 273-0325. Do you have a problem with self-rape? Are you looking to get off the Devil’s playground? Fappy The Anti-Masturbation Dolphin can help! Praise Fappy! We reserve the right to change, modify or delete comments on this website, so post accordingly!

The real president of ABC News is James Goldston. Paul Horner is an internet satirist who has created many fake news websites, articles and hoaxes. He takes responsibility for the pledge article on another one of his websites. The phone number listed for the “complaint department,” as well as at the bottom of the article as an “Obama administration hotline,” is the number of the Westboro Baptist Church, which is best known for its anti-gay views and protests.

An executive order with the number 13738 does exist, but it deals with labor laws and the federal government’s use of private contractors. It has nothing to do with the Pledge of Allegiance. Obama signed it on Aug. 23, and the text is available from the U.S. Government Publishing Office. The National Archives also publishes an official list of all executive orders issued by Obama.

There have been legal challenges, dating back decades, to school boards and other organizations that require the pledge to be recited, concerning the “under God” phrase or religious beliefs. The Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette in 1943 that it is unconstitutional to force children to recite the pledge in public schools. The court ruled that it violates their rights under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. But this does not make it illegal to display or recite the pledge, or to encourage it.


Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide.” abcnews.com.co. 31 Aug 2016.

Executive Order 13738 of August 23, 201. Federal Register Vol. 81, No. 166. 26 Aug 2016.

Disposition of Executive orders signed by President Barack Obama. National Archives. Accessed 31 Aug 2016.

ABC Executives. ABC Television Group. Accessed 31 Aug 2016.

Dewey, Caitlin. “This is not an interview with Banksy.” The Washington Post. 22 Oct 2014.

Rustling, Jimmy. “Paul Horner: Internet News Satirist And Writer.” Newsexaminer.net. 24 Aug 2016.

Pledge of Allegiance Fast Facts.” CNN.com. 12 April 2016.

West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette. Cornell University Law School. Accessed 31 Aug 2016.