Elementary girl saying the Pledge of Allegiance toward a large American Flag.

Elementary girl saying the Pledge of Allegiance toward a large American Flag. Photo courtesy of glenda via Shutterstock

(RNS) The American Humanist Association is suing a New Jersey school district for its recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public classrooms.

The lawsuit, brought on behalf of a local family in central New Jersey, asserts the mandatory recitation of the pledge is discriminatory against nonbelievers because it includes the phrase “under God.”

The lawsuit, filed against Monmouth County’s Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, is the second case that reflects a change in strategy against the pledge. It contends the pledge violates a state constitution’s protection against religious discrimination; previous cases held the pledge violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion.

The first such case, also brought by the AHA, is awaiting a decision in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

“It’s not the place of state governments to take a position on god-belief,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “The current pledge practice marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots, merely because they don’t believe the nation is under God.”

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association and the Center for Humanist Activism, speaks at the launch of a new political action committee during a Washington press conference on Sept. 18, 2013. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association and the Center for Humanist Activism, speaks at the launch of a new political action committee during a Washington press conference on Sept. 18, 2013. RNS photo by Katherine Burgess


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A lawyer for the school district responded to the lawsuit by saying the district is following a state law that requires schools to have a daily recitation of the pledge.

The AHA argues the pledge violates the New Jersey Constitution’s protection against discrimination due to “religious principles, race, color, ancestry or national origin.”

The Pledge of Allegiance did not contain the phrase “under God” until 1954 when it was added by a vote of Congress as a protection against “godless Communism.”

KRE/AMB END WINSTON

24 Comments

  1. The AHA has a point, but the effort is a bit of a non-starter.

    The last Pledge of Allegiance case was knocked out of Federal Court on a technicality. The court went out of its way to duck the issue. I believe the NJ courts will look for excuses to do the same. My guess is that the case will be dismissed based on standing or failure to state a cause of action.

  2. Interesting how few people seem to understand the real problem with Americans having to say pledges of allegiance, regardless of whether or not they mention “God.” It’s very simple. No American owes “allegiance” to anyone or anything. Not to a flag, not to a country, not to anyone.

    “Allegiance,” you see, is a sworn promise of service and payment that someone makes to his/her liege, or overlord (yes, the word “allegiance” derives from “liege”). As such, allegiance became the basis of one’s rights in a feudal relationship. It makes sense, therefore, only in a feudal state.

    But the US is not a feudal state! It’s a constitutional republic. One’s rights are derived not from pledges of payment and service, but from the federal and state constitutions and the rule of law. Americans are citizens by default, not by deed. “Allegiance” is not necessary … for anything … and having to pledge it effectively relegates people to the status of serfs or vassals, neither of which any American is.

    Pledges of allegiance are a relic of medieval thinking. As someone who studied the Middle Ages, I understand and appreciate that civilization perhaps more than anyone, but I honestly cannot fathom why it’s necessary to force schoolkids around the country to mouth a “pledge of allegiance” every morning which is, essentially, an affront to their status as citizens of this republic.

    It’s long past time just to get rid of the Pledge altogether, fercryinoutloud. Just have done with it already.

  3. The pledge existed for a long time without the reference,”under God.” Since the phrase generates division among us “indivisible” folks, let’s do without it..

  4. They are not trying to BAN THE PLEDGE. They want it NOT to be MANDATORY, because that’s an establishment violation. It’s also a violation of freedom of speech, since in order to have the right to what we wish, we must also have the right to refuse to say what we do not wish. But please stop with the lie that they want to ban it. It’s ridiculous.

    • When people start attacking our American foundation, that has existed for years, unchanged, it is a blatant attack on American soil which should be punished as treason for undermining the stability of our great nation for which it stands under god….

  1. […] The American Humanist Association is suing a New Jersey school district for its recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public classrooms. The lawsuit, brought on behalf of a local family in central New Jersey, asserts the mandatory recitation of the pledge is discriminatory against nonbelievers because it includes the phrase “under God.” The lawsuit, filed against Monmouth County’s Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, is the second case that reflects a change in strategy against the pledge. It contends the pledge violates a state constitution’s protection against religious discrimination; previous cases held the pledge violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on the establishment of religion. [Read more] […]

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