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Atheist Group Stands Up for Students’ Right to Sit Out Pledge of Allegiance

For Immediate Release

Contact:

Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105, merrillmiller@americanhumanist.org

Monica Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 120, mmiller@americanhumanist.org

David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119, dniose@americanhumanist.org

(Washington, D.C., Sept. 10, 2014)—Today the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to school officials at Lutie High School in Theodosia, Missouri, concerning a student who has been reprimanded by a teacher for attempting to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to the letter, instead of participating in the school’s daily Pledge recitation, the student sought to remain seated at her desk in a quiet and undisruptive manner because she objects to the “under God” wording. However, her teacher has pressured her, as well as other students who have chosen to remain seated during the Pledge, into standing. The letter states that the teacher has also called into question the patriotism and national loyalty of the students who do not say the Pledge by telling them that they are being disrespectful to America and to military personnel. Further increasing the intimidation of students, the letter asserts that the teacher is permitted to carry a firearm in the course of his duties and has participated in a school-sponsored training program from a company with a militant Christian view.

“Numerous court cases, most notably the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the 1943 West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, affirm that public school students can choose not the recite the Pledge,” said David Niose, legal director of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Intimidating students who choose not to say the Pledge violates their constitutional rights.”

“Questioning students' patriotism just because they object to ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance amounts to an unfair religious litmus test for full citizenship. Such discrimination against  nontheist children reinforces why 'Under God' needs to be removed from the Pledge,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. 

The letter demands that the school inform both teachers and students that students may decline to recite the Pledge. The letter also demands that the school inform teachers that they should not attempt to dissuade students from remaining seated for the Pledge recitation and that they should not shame, embarrass or reprimand students who do not participate in the Pledge.  

On Monday, the American Humanist Association launched a campaign, Don’t Say the Pledge, which includes a website, DontSaythePledge.com, with resources for students who are punished, bullied or harassed for sitting out the Pledge.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

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Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

Special thanks to the Louis J. Appignani Foundation for their support of the Appignani Humanist Legal Center.