April 25, 2014

​New Jersey Lawsuit Seeks to Ban Pledge of Allegiance

By KIMBERLY WINSTON ©2014 Religion News Service

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

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.”

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