A Massachusetts high court ruled on Friday that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "under God" is not a constitutional violation.
Anonymous atheist parents brought a suit in 2010 against the Acton-Boxborough regional school district claiming that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance daily in school violated their three children's First Amendment rights because it contains the phrase "under God."
But Friday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled against the family, saying, “We hold that the recitation of the pledge, which is entirely voluntary, violates neither the Constitution nor the [state's anti-discrimination] statute."
In their affidavits, John and Jane Doe acknowledged that their children understand their right to refuse participation in the recitation but usually do so without uttering "under God." The parents explain that their children are Humanists and "do not believe that the United States of America…is 'under God.'" But because of the omission, the parents feel their children may become targets of ridicule from classmates, labeled unpatriotic and that may possibly lead to bullying. However, the court could find no evidence that ridicule or bullying ever took place.
Joining the school district were the Alliance Defending Freedom and Massachusetts Family Institute. Together, they filed a joint friend-of-the-court brief. ADF's Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco said, “Simply being offended by something does not make it a violation of the Massachusetts Constitution." He added, “As we argued in our brief and as the Supreme Judicial Court found, the recitation is completely voluntary, and listening to the words ‘under God’ does not violate anyone’s constitutional freedoms.”
This is the second ruling in this case for the Doe family. In 2013, a lower court concluded the same thing: "under God" in no way violates the district's anti-discrimination policy or state law. Unsatisfied, the family appealed.
As the high court made the final ruling in the case, it concluded:
Although the words ‘under God’ undeniably have a religious tinge, courts that have considered the history of the pledge and the presence of those words have consistently concluded that the pledge, notwithstanding its reference to God, is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one…The fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling ‘stigmatized’ or ‘excluded’ as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection principles.
H/T Christian Post