Saturday, June 8, 2013

Mass. Supreme Court to Hear Pledge Suit

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) planned to hear in May a challenge to the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

In February, the Court requested amicus (friend of the court) briefs from those who have a strong interest in the suit, but are not parties to it.

The Lowell Sun reported that the SJC, in its call for briefs, described the case as identifying “important issues of state constitutional and statutory law concerning the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Backed by the American Humanist Association (AHA), an unidentified atheist family has charged the Acton-Boxboro Regional School District with religious discrimination.

The family argues that the words “under God” in the Pledge violate the equal rights amendment in the Massachusetts Constitution.

It also contends that the daily recital of the Pledge constitutes unlawful discrimination, because the recitation endorses a religion.

Roy Speckhardt, AHA president, wrote, “By tying patriotism to God-belief, public schools not only cast a cloud of suspicion over atheists and humanists, but they make it impossible for atheist-humanist children to meaningfully participate in the daily exercise of the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Acton-Boxboro Superintendent Stephen Mills wrote, “For both students and teachers, participation in the Pledge of Allegiance is totally voluntary.”

In June 2012, Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty upheld the Pledge. She called it a patriotic exercise, not a prayer. She ruled that the phrase “under God” was not a religious truth.

Geoffrey Bok, Boxboro’s lawyer, wrote in his brief, that if the SJC limited the Pledge, “It would establish an unprecedented right of any student or parents to block public school teachings that are offensive to their religious beliefs, even if the alleged offensive teachings are made totally voluntary.”

The case is Doe v. Boxboro.

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