There’s an interesting lawsuit going on in Massachusetts, where a family is challenging a school for having students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning. But the case is in state court rather than federal court and is based on the equal protection guarantees in that state’s constitution rather than on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Reciting the words “under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates and marginalizes the children of atheists, a Middlesex Superior Court was told on Monday.
“This is a daily exercise that favors a particular religious view and defines patriotism according to a particular religious belief,” said David Niosie, an attorney representing an Acton-Boxborough family, which has refused to identify itself.
“By conducting a daily exercise that says the nation is in fact under God in a patriotic context, which really suggests that non-believers are less patriotic that everyone else,” said Niosie, who would not say who was paying his legal fees.
Very well stated. The school doesn’t seem to care:
“This business that we’re marginalizing students,” said Dr. Stephen Mills, superintendent of the Acton-Boxborough school district. “There’s absolutely no recrimination, no negative consequences ever against a child who chooses not to say the pledge, or in this particular case, simply say the pledge and not say the words under God.”
Not by the school, perhaps, but there’s almost certainly recrimination by other students and by the larger community. That’s why the family has filed anonymously, as Does, because they fear — quite rightly — such recrimination. Just take a look at what is happening right now to Jessica Ahlquist for challenging Christian hegemony. This isn’t some crazy hypothetical; more than one family has had its house firebombed over this kind of thing, and nearly every family who has ever challenged such activities has been the victim of, at the very least, harassment and intimidation.
The very fact that these kids are saying the pledge but omitting the words ‘under God’ rather than just refusing to say it and therefore being set apart from everyone else in that way speaks to the entirely legitimate fear of retaliation that they face every day. That the school superintendent cares so little about that is really appalling.