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-Mass: Atheist Couple Sue to Remove ‘Under God’ from Pledge of Allegiance in Schools

by Dr. D ~ February 15th, 2012

I Pledge Allegiance

         (I Pledge Allegiance -Photo: Richard Elzey)

Atheist parents of three children in the Acton Public Schools and the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District are suing to have the ‘under God’ clause removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that is recited in the Massachusetts schools every day according to state law.

The name of the family is being withheld (identified as only John and Jane Doe) but they are represented by attorney David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association. This is his take on the issue:

"The daily recitation in public schools of a pledge declaring that the nation is ‘under God’ is discriminatory toward atheists and humanists

"No child should go to school each day to have the class declare that her religious beliefs are wrong in an exercise that portrays her and her family as less patriotic than believers."

According to district superintendent Stephen Mills, students are not forced to say the pledge even though it is officially said every day in the classroom in response to state law:

"Students have a right to not say it all, the entire pledge. I would be acting illegally if the kids didn’t say pledge of allegiance."

The Becket Fund also filed a motion in the case on behalf of Daniel and Ingrid Joyce who have two students from the same school district who want to keep their children saying the pledge just as it is. The Knights of Columbus also entered the case on the side of retaining the ‘under God’ clause.

Response: Every couple of years it seems like someone sues over the pledge and so far none have been successful. This is the first time that it has been addressed in a state court while assailing a state law in the process.  

Personally I find very little merit in the case. First of all, students are not forced to say the ‘under God’ clause. Secondly, children of Jehovah Witnesses have declined to join in saying the whole entire pledge for nearly a hundred years without any penalty or claims of discrimination. Third, I find the anonymity of the parents to be rather ingenuous and gutless since they are trying to force a change that will affect everyone else.

Arguments were heard in the case on Monday (2/13/12) in a Massachusetts Superior Court. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in a state court. Remember this is Massachusetts after all, a very liberal state indeed. Nevertheless, one wonders how any state or judge could ultimately presume to have the authority to revise a national pledge?             *Top

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