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Austin Cline

Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Review 'Under God'

By October 31, 2012

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One Nation Under God Pledge of Allegiance
Image © Austin Cline
Original Poster:
University of Georgia

There's another legal challenge being made against the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance. This one makes new and different legal argument from previous challenges and while it's not clear whether those arguments will be accepted, they are good enough for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to want to hear them.

The plaintiffs are parents of three children in Massachusetts schools where teachers are required to begin each day by leading the entire class in a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The parents are arguing that the phrase 'under God' transforms a patriotic exercise into a religious exercise which encourages prejudice and bigotry to nonbelievers like themselves.

This, in turn, violates the state's constitutional protection of the equal rights of all citizens.

"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." ...

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.

Source: American Humanist

Apparently, this is the first time that a lawsuit has been filed like this which challenges traditional Christian practices in government on the basis of atheists' equal rights instead of based on the First Amendment. That will change the dynamics of the legal arguments because it pits the legal equality of nonbelievers against... well, the desire of Christians to have their beliefs endorsed, promoted, and supported by the government.

October 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm
(1) Lisa says:

Well we try again. Hopefully reason prevails.

November 2, 2012 at 12:15 pm
(2) Dean J. Smith says:

Why is the wrongness of public school teachers having other people’s children recite statements about God so hard for so many people to grasp?

Surely they would get it if the phrase were changed to ‘under Allah’ or ‘under Brahma’.

November 5, 2012 at 7:41 pm
(3) ummugumma says:

Send the whole messy pile of superstitious crap back to the dark ages, where it belongs.

December 27, 2012 at 11:21 am
(4) Donald B. Ardell says:

This story inspired me to write an article at my blog that I entitled, “Be a Patriot, Strike a Blow for Liberty and Protect the First Amendment: Fold Your Arms in Protest While Declining to Recite the Religious Pledge of Allegiance.”

Imagine how put off you would be if, at the start of every workday, all employees at your worksite were expected to stand, face the flag and recite the Lord’s Prayer – or passages from the Bhagavad-Gita or the Holy Quran. Unless you were a devotee of the favored religion, you’d probably find the exercise rude at best or, much worse, a violation of your rights.

I suggest it’s time for the twenty percent of the “nones” in this country and all other citizens, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims who do not believe that the Republic is “under God” (or, if they do believe that, do not believe that the inclusion of this religious phrase in a once secular pledge of loyalty is appropriate or constitutional), to show overt opposition to the Pledge of Allegiance wherever and whenever it is recited.

I recommend a simple, respectful but clear physical technique for displaying opposition to this McCarthy-era imposition of Christianity into secular national affairs: stand, like everyone else but with folded arms, silently while slowly moving your head slightly from side to side in an unmistakable expression of “NO!”

In doing so, you and other co-conspirators for safeguarding separation of church and state will effectively be acting as patriots for your country, striking a blow for liberty while protecting your rights under the First Amendment. Patriotism need not be defined or associated with God-belief. To do so, as occurs with the recitation of the revised Pledge, marginalizes freethinkers. We have a right to communicate dissent from this imposition on our own, non-Christian convictions.

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