A lawsuit filed against a New Jersey school district on behalf of a local family that objects to their child’s school conducting regular Pledge of Allegiance recitation with the words “under God” was discussed by Fox News Republican Mike Huckabee, as the issue moves toward a showdown in court.
The case was filed by the American Humanist Association (AHA) on behalf of a Monmouth County family who wish to remain anonymous. It claims that daily school-sponsored recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance — declaring to students that the nation is “under God” — is discriminatory toward atheist children and their families.
The pledge originally made no mention of mysticism or religion but it has been altered over the years and atheist Americans have requested courts to change the statement back to its original compositio:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
The legal action began when the American Humanist Association originally sent a letter of complaint to the superintendent of schools for the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in Monmouth County on February 19, but the school system responded by saying it would not change the practice.
“Public schools should not engage in an exercise that tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God,” said David Niose, attorney for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “Such a daily exercise portrays atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens, and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.”
The American Humanist Association claims that the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance violates Article 1 of the New Jersey Constitution, which states, “No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or military right, nor be segregated in the militia or in the public schools, because of religious principles, race, color, ancestry or national origin.” The American Humanist Association points out that the original version of the Pledge did not include “under God” wording. That wording was added in 1954, during the McCarthy era.
“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.”
This case is similar to one awaiting a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, based on that state’s constitutional equal rights protections. The Massachusetts case is also being handled by the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Huckabee was recently described as “the born showman and 59-year-old class clown, whose brand of innocuous humor and deep-dimpled affability made him such a hit during his 2008 presidential campaign in this staunchly conservative stretch of the nation’s first voting state.”
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