Secular Americans Disappointed with MA Supreme Court Decision on Pledge of Allegiance
Washington, DC—The Secular Coalition for America today expressed disappointment with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision in the case of Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.
The case challenged a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Court sided with the defendant, and ruled that the school district can compel students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance including the wording “under God”.
The attorney for the plaintiffs, David Niose, served as president of the Secular Coalition for America at the time he presented the case, which was brought through the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Niose argued that the wording "under God" in the Pledge discriminates against atheists and other nonbelievers, by instilling and defining patriotism according to a god belief.
"Atheist-humanist children love their country no less than do children who believe in God, and it's just wrong to have a daily patriotic exercise that invalidates them by associating patriotism with God-belief," Niose said after arguing the case. "If schools conduct a daily exercise to instill national loyalty, it should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory."
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America said the outcome was a disappointment, because of its potential to assert the rights of nonbelievers via Equal Protection and nondiscrimination.
The Equal Protection clause was cited in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) to fight racial discrimination, and has also been the basis for many other decisions rejecting discrimination against people belonging to various groups. This was the first time the Equal Protection clause was argued on behalf of nontheists.
“This would have been a groundbreaking case for atheists and humanists, but the Court’s decision today simply reaffirms the status quo,” Rogers said. “Today’s decision tells our children that love for our country must be linked to a god belief, and that in and of itself is discriminatory.”
The Secular Coalition for America is the advocacy organization representing atheists, humanists, agnostics and other nontheists. The Secular Coalition represents 16 voting member organizations, including the American Humanist Associations, as well as more than 175 associate, endorsing and affiliated organizations, and 50 state chapters.
- Ellery Schempp, Secular Coalition for Massachusetts co-chair, (781)367-4271
- Zachary Bos, Secular Coalition for Massachusetts co-chair and rally organizer, Cell: (617)935-4951, [email protected]
CONTACT (DC Office): Lauren Anderson Youngblood, SCA Director of Communications, at [email protected] or (202)299-1091 ext. 205, cell (202)630-9725
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