“Under God” Is Under Fire In New Jersey School System
In a case that is garnering attention from around the nation, an atheist family is taking a local school board to court.
This is a new court case occurring in Monmouth County, New Jersey, that seeks to discover whether or not the phrase “Under God” should be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance on the basis that it is discriminatory towards students who do not adhere toChristian beliefs. The addition of this phrase to the Pledge of Allegiance has run afoul of parents and non-religious individuals before, leaving this case as the latest in a long string of court appearances.
The Argument Against “Under God”
The family that has brought the case against the Aberdeen Matawan School District has chosen to remain anonymous, appearing in court documents as John and Jane Doe. Their main argument that has been entered on their behalf is that their student is being required to say the words “Under God” each day is an act of discrimination. According to David Niose, an attorney for American Humanist Association’s legal center, saying the pledge each morning “tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God” and “portrays atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens, and contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.” This claim puts the phrase “Under God” in direct violation of the first amendment rights that are guaranteed to every person.
— The Christian Post (@ChristianPost) November 21, 2014
The School’s Argument
However, the school board is telling a much different story than the family suing the school district. While it is state law that the pledge is said daily, the school says that no student is actually required to say the Pledge of Allegiance in class, and, therefore, there is no discrimination occurring in the classroom. That means the pledge, and the phrase “Under God” cannot be a violation of equal protection laws since all students are given the option of not saying the pledge. However, the school did admit that they have a policy in place that all students who do not wish to say the Pledge of Allegiance must give an explanation in writing through their parents.
While the phrase “Under God” may seem exclusionary to non-religious people, courts are having a difficult time identifying it as discrimination because students are not bound to saying that phrase, or the pledge at all. It seems likely that this case is capable of allowing another, deeper explanation into the standing New Jersey law.