In September, attorney David Niose told the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that the phrase under God in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against school children who don’t believe in God.
He said the phrase “portrays true patriots as those who believe the nation is under God, whereas it portrays nonbelievers as second-class citizens at best, downright unpatriotic at worst.”
In May, the Court unanimously disagreed. It held that under God did not violate the State Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.
Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote, “There is no evidence…that the Doe children have ever been subjected to any type of punishment, bullying, or other mistreatment, criticism, condemnation, or ostracism as a result of not participating in the pledge or not reciting the words under God.”
He declared, “Reciting the pledge …is not a litmus test for defining who is or who is not patriotic. The schools confer no privilege or advantage of patriotism…to those who recite the pledge in its entirety.”
Justice Barbara Lenk concurred, because the Doe children had not suffered. However, she thought the phrase did discriminate.
She wrote, “A reference to a supreme being, by its very nature, distinguishes between those who believe such a being exists and those whose beliefs are otherwise.…
“Should future plaintiffs demonstrate that the distinction created by the pledge…has engendered…differential treatment, I would leave open the possibility that the equal rights amendment might provide a remedy.”
The case is American Humanist Association v. Doe.