Family suing New Jersey school district over ‘Under God’ Pledge of Allegiance phrase

By Daniel S Levine,

A New Jersey family in suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and the superintendent over the Pledge of Allegiance, which contains the phrase “Under God.”

The lawsuit was filed in state court in March, but not announced by the American Humanist Association (AHA) until Monday. In the suit, the family seeks to have “Under God” removed as it discriminates against atheists in violation of the state constitution, reports the Asbury Park Press. The AHA is also named a defendant. The family has decided to remain anonymous.

“The lawsuit is an equal protection suit seeking to declare unconstitutional the New Jersey state law requiring daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag in public schools,” David Niose, the AHA legal director, told WCBS 880. “Children are taught that patriotism is defined a certain way. They’re taught to associate belief in God with patriot feelings. Certainly, with that being taught, the atheists look like an outsider. The atheist is stigmatized.”

In the suit, the group says that the phrase makes atheist and humanist children feel as “something less than ideal patriots.”

The school district’s attorney, David Rubin, has said that the administration is only following the state law that the pledge must be recited daily.

“If the group who's brought this lawsuit questions the wisdom of that policy or the legality of it, we believe their arguments are much better directed to the state Legislature who's imposed this requirement on us, rather than suing an individual school district on this matter,” Rubin said.

The “Under God” phrase was only added to the Pledge, which was written in 1892, in 1954. Since then, there have been several challenges to it, including one that the Massachusetts Supreme Court is considering now. The AHA is also involved in that case.



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