9/4/13, BOSTON — A family asked Massachusetts’ highest court Wednesday to ban the daily practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools, arguing that the words “under God” in the pledge discriminate against atheists.
In arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court, a lawyer for an atheist Acton couple who sued on behalf of their three children argued that the reference to God suggests that “good patriots are God believers” and nonbelievers are less patriotic or unpatriotic.
David Niose, an attorney representing the family and the American Humanist Association, rejected the argument that because the pledge is voluntary, it does not discriminate against atheists.
“The exercise itself still discriminates. It defines patriotism a certain way,” Niose told the seven justices.
A lawyer for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District argued that the pledge is not mandatory and students can opt out by either leaving out the reference to God or by not reciting the pledge.
“There is no religious bias in the statute,” said Geoffrey Bok, an attorney for the school district.
Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, told the justices that the phrase “under God” has a long history as an expression of a “political philosophy” and is not a religious declaration.
“It’s always been used to limit first the power of the king and now the power of government,” Rassbach said after the hearing. “It’s not a religious statement … no one is getting up there and saying a prayer when they say the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Last year, a Massachusetts judge found that the words “under God” in the pledge did not violate state law or the school’s anti-discrimination policy. Judge S. Jane Haggerty found that including “under God” in a voluntary patriotic exercise does not “convert the exercise into a prayer.” The family appealed the ruling.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed by the couple in 2010. Their name was not disclosed.
Niose said the family is seeking a ruling that declares unconstitutional the current daily classroom recitation of the pledge.
The original pledge was adopted by Congress in 1942 and did not contain the words “under God.” The phrase was added in 1954.
The justices peppered Niose with questions about how far the ban on the pledge should extend, noting that the pledge is recited at sporting events and other public gatherings. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland noted that there are other references to God made in public places, including at state courthouses where court officers include “God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” in a daily recitation.
Niose said those references are “ceremonial” and not recited on a daily basis by children for their 13 years in public school.
The court did not immediately rule. Decisions typically are published several months after oral arguments.
Any ruling by the court would apply only to Massachusetts because the language of the Pledge of Allegiance is set by federal law.
Best Viable Practices
An OPINION of Dean L. Jones
Whether it be considered religious or philosophic the fundamental principle of respect in Christianity and Judaism teachings share a starting mandate: “Thou Shalt Not Have Any Gods Before Me.” Although not using the exact same phrasing, Islamic worship also holds this as its first ethical principle as well. For that reason, if taken literally, the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance could easily be criticized by religious groups as to why is God not stated as the first vow of commitment before that of country?
Instead, this question leans more before those who consider themselves nonbelievers in God, or atheists, where the words under God undermines their ability to be nonbelievers. But especially at a time where U.S. aggression is at the forefront of global imperialism whereby destroying country after country (fellow human brother after fellow human brother), God seems to be on the sideline as the first commander of commandments.
The argument that some atheist insist upon is that because they do not believe in God their children should not have to repeat the words ‘under God’ in the pledge of allegiance. But because their belief of atheism (another form of religion) by referring to God compromises their ability to refrain from a false belief. This is a hypocritical convenience since the whole country openly uses the architecture of ‘In God We Trust’ as its sturdy base of activity in the monetary and judicial system.
The very supreme courts that atheist have their lawyers fighting for asking permission to exclude reciting God in the pledge has sworn on the same bible of record to undertake due diligence of efficiencies. Consequently, no matter whatever the outcome of rule it will be based on those who took an oath of officiating under God.
The modern motto of the United States of America, as established in a 1956 law signed by President Dwight D Eisenhower, is In God We Trust. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST as a motto for currency (but not as a National motto) first appeared on United States coins in 1864.
By pledging your loyalty to any person, place or thing presents that you have something more important than self, therefore that being worthy of beholding or God like. By removing under God in the pledge of allegiance would not change the atheist concept about worship since the whole pledge of allegiance is an act of religion. If anyone should be more indifferent to the current pledge of allegiance it should be those who hold themselves religious believers of the first commandment. The pledge as it reads blatantly addresses country first and an honorable mention of God later. Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to reference God first if the biblical teaching have any meaning whatsoever?
The best viable practice for schools is to more appropriately consider globalization and emerging economies in view of what life should be about. The phrase under God means literally that we are all part of something bigger than our known individual presence. Moving toward a future without limitation embraces bridging the communication gaps of the world through a more educated global society of sciences and arts. If while attending school our pledge of allegiance is to only serve for a more perfect United States thereby automatically places another glass ceiling on the concept of be an authentic learning of unlimited education.
A best viable practice is to revamp the pledge toward a more global view in order to develop a progressive nation and an unlimited positive future. Let us take a closer look at what we are really reciting; I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.
I Pledge Allegiance – since it is an individual affirmation this statement makes sense coming at the beginning.
to the flag – promising to be faithful and true (promise my loyalty) to a thing is where the future comes under possible limitation since those things are created with bias. This would therefore be more appropriate in a different part of allegiance to be a symbol of the emblem that it stands for and represents
of the United States of America, – without question, limiting oneself to merely 1.9% of the global land mass (all 50 states on the flag) comprises the ability to ever expect global peace or common ground. Creating an even tone of learning the USA is a symbol of global dominance where finding truth rest with those of comparable breed.
and to the Republic for which it stands: – using the connecting word ‘and’ plays a critical role to reintegrate the priority of pledge personal loyalty to the Government that is itself a Republic, a form of government where the only the people of that government are considered sovereign. Accordingly, this goes right back to the Flag to which a personal promise first loyalty.
one Nation under God, – these words should have receive main focal point with reciting a pledge of allegiance or having a mindset of an unlimited future as it references the unqualified creation of mankind. A reference to 50 individual states being united as a single Republic under the Divine providence of God in itself means that God should have top billing. U.S. government leaders since president Dwight D. Eisenhower have all conceded here that it is not man but something higher that makes this all possible. In view of that alone, placing God 24 out of 31 words is sort of like making a footnote phrase in a paramount pledge. This has the appearance of being somewhat as a demeaning affirmation to our most powerful resource.
Indivisible, – is a strong word injected in our pledge because it essentially excludes the potential of ever realizing an emerging nation concept, where the U.S. cannot be separated. We have gotten over its original meaning whereas when these words were created it was post Civil War and used to unite the thought of all Americans following a very divisive period of an extremely race conscious society. Whereas, for those Americans still standing their ground over the issues of race superiority then the whole pledge really needs God more than ever.
with Liberty – freedom would have been a more appropriate term, particularly when we look at history of the world where all persecution surrounds the restriction of individuals rights and freedom. I like the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Let Freedom Ring”
and Justice – using the connector word ‘and’ works here and makes a lot of sense where without fair treatment to universal law there is no freedom.
for All. – there can be no limitation to ALL as looking at this pledge to only U.S. citizens violates the very essence of life, so again reiterating how God must precede the personal affirmation leaving a flag as such an incidental matter to our existence and purpose.
Employing a limited design in a Global Economy recognizes just ONE Nation under God should not be divided away from its own Liberty and Justice in relation to the rest of the world. Making a promise of loyalty to the Flag itself is placing an idol before God. Promising personal loyalty to your own state and the other 49 States will develop post traumatic syndrome disorders following unexplainable war action on behalf of a flag idol. Consequently, promising your loyalty to the Government will never permit world unification for us ALL, where the best practices is not the most viable for success. In a constantly changing world things must be updated and improved. Try saving and sharing the following as an update to our collective USA pledge: