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Humanist Group Defends Right of Student Who Was Refused Treatment by School Nurse for Sitting Out the Pledge of Allegiance

For Immediate Release


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

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

(Carlisle, PA, April 9, 2015)—Yesterday, the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at the Carlisle Area School District in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, on behalf of a student who was wrongfully admonished by a school nurse for exercising the constitutional right to remain seated during the Pledge of Allegiance.

According to the letter, the student was in the nurse’s office with several others when the school’s Pledge recitation was conducted. She quietly remained seated during the exercise, raising the ire of the school nurse who then criticized her and even refused to attend to her. Badgered and humiliated, the student left in tears.

“The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that public school students have the unequivocal right to opt out of participation the Pledge of Allegiance exercise,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, in reference to the 1943 case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “There is no excuse for a school staff member to humiliate and bully a student who chooses to exercise this right, and the nurse’s refusal to service the student is particularly egregious.”

The student contacted the American Humanist Association through its BoycottthePledge.com website, part of its campaign to support the right of public school students to opt out of the Pledge as well as to raise awareness of the ways in which the phrase “under God” in the Pledge discriminates against atheists, humanists and other nontheists.

“The ‘under God’ wording was never part of the original Pledge of Allegiance, and it divisively casts humanists and atheists as less than true patriots, relegating them to second-class citizenship,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “When that phrase is removed and the Pledge is restored, then we will truly be ‘one nation, indivisible.’”

The letter to Carlisle Area School District officials demands that all students and staff in the district be advised that students may remain seated during the Pledge recitation. It also demands that all staff be instructed that they must not, under any circumstances, persuade students to refrain from exercising their right to opt out of the Pledge or characterize doing so as wrongful and that no student should be disciplined for exercising this right. The letter also demands that the school offer a written apology to the student.

A copy of the letter can be viewed here.


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.