AHA News |  

Oral Arguments Presented in Massachusetts Case Challenging “Under God” in Pledge of Allegiance

For Immediate Release

Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088 ext. 105
bmagee@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, February 14, 2012)—Yesterday afternoon the American Humanist Association argued in Massachusetts Superior Court that the state’s constitutional equal rights amendment should bar the practice of public schools conducting a daily flag-salute exercise that utilizes the version of the Pledge of Allegiance that includes the phrase “under God.”

This case, Jane Doe, et. als. v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District et al, is particularly unique and important because the state’s constitutional equal protection guarantees are the basis of the suit, not the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. This same strategy could be replicated in other jurisdictions.

“The daily recitation in public schools of a pledge declaring that the nation is ‘under God’ is discriminatory toward atheists and humanists,” said David Niose, president of the American Humanist Association and lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case. “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.”

Currently, Massachusetts law requires public school teachers to begin each day with a classroom recitation of the Pledge for the purpose of instilling patriotism and love of country. On behalf of the plaintiffs, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center is asking for a court declaration that daily recitation of the “under God” version of the pledge is discriminatory. They also seek a court order that other, nondiscriminatory means should be used to instill patriotism.

The plaintiffs are not trying to discontinue patriotic exercises, but seek only to make those exercises inclusive and nondiscriminatory. The federal government added “under God” to its wording of the Pledge in 1954, at the height of the McCarthy era during the Cold War, whereas before that the Pledge simply declared that the nation was “one nation indivisible.” Plaintiffs are requesting that this inclusive version be used once again in Massachusetts, and/or that other means of instilling patriotism be used, such as reading about important historical figures and events. The original version of the Pledge, written in 1892, is completely secular and inclusive of all Americans.

The suit was originally filed in November 2010. In denying the defendants’ earlier motion to dismiss, the judge on May 25, 2011 wrote in part: “The daily affirmation to children that America is ‘one nation under God’ cannot be characterized as just a meaningless ceremony, for in the context of daily public school recitation (accompanying the salute of the national flag) such a statement becomes the equivalent of official State doctrine – far from meaningless…”

The court took the motions for summary judgment under advisement and did not indicate when a ruling could be expected.

###

The American Humanist Association advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.  Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.

The Appignani Humanist Legal Center is a project of the American Humanist Association that provides legal assistance to defend the constitutional rights of secular Americans by challenging violations of the separation of church and state guaranteed by the Establishment Clause and seeking equal rights for humanists, atheists and other freethinkers.

American Humanist Association

This is a 5-minute video of students and parents gathered on the football field...

1 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Caption this photo taken at the 2014 World Humanist Congress in Oxford, England...

19 hours ago

American Humanist Association

This video shows how some religious people react to homosexuality. When you put...

19 hours ago

American Humanist Association

The newest issue of the Humanist Magazine is out! Take a look! Clay Farris Naff...

21 hours ago

American Humanist Association

The Jackson Public School District has agreed to cease including religious activ...

23 hours ago

American Humanist Association

Dave Niose, Legal Director of the AHLC, has been featured on CBS46 in Atlanta, G...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

The Humanist Hour Podcast #113 out now! Jeremy Chappell talks about the “spiritu...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

This morning, the American Humanist Association issued a press release regarding...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Why are some of the poorest regions in America also the most religious? A new st...

1 days ago

American Humanist Association

Listen up D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Humanists! Want to meet local free-thinke...

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

While vandalism may not be the technique I would use to express my views, some...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

In his new Huffington Post article, Roy Speckhardt discusses prejudice and the k...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

Sonja Eggerickx, president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

We just got a nice donation from the AmazonSmile Foundation thanks to people lik...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

The American Humanist Association stands up for the rights of teachers of minori...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

AHA Legislative Associate Matthew Bulger responds to some recent comments by U.S...

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

We need more nontheistic politicians in the United States!

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday!! Here is a wonderful poem from Dan Moran. Check It Out!

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Well, I am not so sure how common this dilemma is, but it is interesting anyway!

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Hooray! Florida's same-sex marriage ban struck down! Check it out! http://hmn.s...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

New evidence supporting the theory of evolution has been found in parasite ants...

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

Here is the newest episode of The Cartoon History of Humanism. Enjoy! Get TheH...

8 days ago

American Humanist Association

An easy to follow video illustrating the separation of church and state and the...

8 days ago