AHA News |  

“Under God” Pledge Case to be Reviewed by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court

For Immediate Release
Contact: Brian Magee, 202-238-9088 ex 105, bmagee@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, DC, Oct. 26, 2012) —The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has agreed to hear the appeal from a humanist family challenging a state law that requires daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag in public schools. The plaintiffs claim daily classroom affirmation that the nation is “under God” violates state constitutional prohibitions against religious discrimination.

The plaintiffs brought the case through the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. The SJC on Thursday approved the petition for direct appellate review of the case, which means a lower court will not have to first consider the appeal.

“Public schools are defining patriotism and loyalty on a daily basis by exalting one religious group and stigmatizing humanists and other non-theists. Of course that’s discrimination,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “We feel confident that a fair hearing will result in a finding that the state law requiring this discriminatory practice violates the state’s equal rights amendment.”

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of three public school students and their parents, was filed in November 2010 and is the first of its kind seeking equal rights for atheists and humanists based on equal protection guarantees in the state constitution instead of traditional First Amendment Establishment Clause arguments.

Massachusetts law requires public school teachers to begin each day with a classroom recitation of the Pledge. The suit claims that daily affirmation that the nation is “under God” in the context of an exercise designed to promote national loyalty “directly contradicts the religious beliefs and principles of the plaintiffs” and effectively defines patriotism in terms of God-belief, thereby marginalizing plaintiffs and contributing to existing prejudices against nonbelievers.

A lower court ruled against the plaintiffs in June, and the plaintiffs appealed. With the SJC granting direct appellate review, the case will now be decided by the state’s highest court.

Religious interest groups have intervened in the case to defend the daily “under God” recitation. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represents the Knights of Columbus and a family that supports the “under God” wording.

The phrase “under God” was inserted into the Pledge in 1954 during the post-WWII Red Scare, a moment in time when partisan forces exploited the fear many Americans had of communism, using that fear to promote religion in public life and to vilify atheists and other nonbelievers. The original Pledge was written in 1892, with a later version—still without “under God”—not adopted by the U.S. Congress until 1942.

The case is Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.

###

The American Humanist Association (www.AmericanHumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 150 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.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation and The Herb Block Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, 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

Christianity and Humanism compared. . .

2 days ago

American Humanist Association

Happy Friday everyone!!! More comics at: http://hmn.st/1wOZhEE

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

On June 19, 2014, Amanda Scott testified before the Mobile, Alabama, County Com...

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

3 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

4 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

5 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

6 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

We need more nontheistic politicians in the United States!

7 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

10 days ago

American Humanist Association

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

10 days ago