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Pledge of Allegiance Case to be Heard by Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
A lawsuit was rejected back in the month of June by a Middlesex Superior Court judge that says the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools violates the state equal rights law in Massachusetts. Now, the high court in the state has agreed to hear the case. The lawsuit was filed against the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District by an atheist couple and their children. They claim that using the words “under God” violate the state’s Equal Rights Amendment, according to the Boston Globe.
“There is almost no case law defining religious discrimination under the Equal Rights Amendment. In fact, there’s really none,” David Niose said. Niose is the attorney for the family and is the president of the Humanist Association. “It’s high time that this type of discrimination be adjudicated.”
The words “under God” were defended by another couple who has two children. They were backed by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization. Also backing the couple was the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.
The deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund, Eric Rassbach, said, “This is an important case because it has to do with whether people with really different world views can live together in the country without trying to sue to silence the other one.”
Massachusetts General Law requires all public schools in the state to recite the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the first class each day. The pledge is to be led by teachers. Niose said that the law is to instill patriotism in the students but the notion that the country was created “under God” implies that the students who do not believe in God are less patriotic than others.
“We want people to realize it’s not un-American to ask your school and to ask your state to conduct a patriotic exercise without denigrating your religious class,” he said.
The superintendent of the school district named in the suit, Stephen E. Mills, said in legal documents that teachers and students are allowed to opt out of reciting the pledge.
“I believe very strongly in accommodating and not discriminating against any student based on their or their family’s religious beliefs,” Mills wrote in a superior court affidavit. “To that end, participation in the school district’s regular administration of the Pledge of Allegiance is totally voluntary.”
According to Niose, opting out of reciting the pledge does not prevent discrimination religiously.
“Its hardly a consolation that they get to sit down and watch while their class conducts this disparaging exercise,” he said.