Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: "Silent Supporter, Benson, N.C." (Aug. 26) cannot say the Pledge of Allegiance because of religious reasons. I support his or her right not to participate. However, I disagree with "Silent's" interpretation that standing is participating.

I work overseas in a U.S. Department of Defense school attended by students from 13 NATO countries. Every morning, the Pledge is recited and the non-American students stand respectfully. By standing, they are not pledging their own allegiance but behaving appropriately while those who choose to participate do so.

I do not believe that standing during the Pledge, or a similar pledge in any other country, implies consent or support. Standing quietly and allowing others to participate shows respect for the citizens, nation and our right to believe as we choose. Remaining seated is, in my opinion, disrespectful on many levels.

— MAUREEN IN MONS, BELGIUM

DEAR MAUREEN: Your point is well-taken, and interestingly enough, many readers agree with you. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I think "Silent Supporter" may be confusing the Pledge of Allegiance with the singing of the National Anthem at sporting events. Standing is a sign of respect, not one of commitment. If sitting causes others to react unfavorably, simply show up a few minutes after kickoff or the first pitch. That way, no one will have any problems with you and your beliefs.

— LET'S PLAY BALL IN AUSTIN, TEXAS

DEAR ABBY: I am a Quaker. We also find oaths, including the Pledge of Allegiance, contrary to our Quaker faith and practice. However, we still stand silently, considering it to be politeness, not participation.

— TOM IN REDWOOD CITY, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: On Flag Day, June 14, 1943, right in the middle of the greatest patriotic war in history, the U.S. Supreme Court passed a resolution, which is still in effect today, that no man, woman or child shall be required to stand for or salute the flag of this country, or to stand for the singing of the National Anthem. Anyone who berates another for not standing or participating in either is denying that person his legal rights as given by the U.S. Supreme Court. Therefore aliens, visitors, religious believers and dutiful citizens have the right to stand, salute and sing — or NOT.

— NATIVE AMERICAN CITIZEN AND WWII VETERAN

DEAR ABBY: Remember the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do"? A person who does not stand draws the attention and the ire of the crowd. Far better to arrive after the ceremony and avoid a scene.

— QUIET BYSTANDER IN N.C.

DEAR ABBY: As an educator, I teach all of my students to stand for the Pledge, whether they participate or not. If they are entering a room or a stadium, they should stop walking and remain still as a sign of respect.

I am not a person unto myself but a part of a larger community. "Respect" should cross all boundaries that divide us. Whether one chooses to be respectful or not should not even be questioned. Having said that, however, those who taunted "Silent" should remember that respect goes both ways.

— BEV IN STEILACOOM, WASH.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.