Image © Austin Cline
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.