A New Jersey family is suing the Matawan–Aberdeen Regional School District as well as its superintendent for having students recite the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance instead of removing it.
The family, who do not wish to be identified, filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Monmouth County. They, as well as the American Humanist Association, believe that acknowledging God in the pledge discriminates against atheists which is against New Jersey’s constitution, according to USA Today.
From their website, the American Humanist Association “encompasses a variety of nontheistic views (atheism, agnosticism, rationalism, naturalism, secularism, and so forth) while adding the important element of a comprehensive worldview and set of ethical values – values that are grounded in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, informed by scientific knowledge, and driven by a desire to meet the needs of people in the here and now.”
However, the school’s district attorney David Rubin claims that the school is just following a law which requires students and staff to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day.
“If the group who’s brought this lawsuit questions the wisdom of that policy or the legality of it, we believe their arguments are much better directed to the state Legislature who’s imposed this requirement on us, rather than suing an individual school district on this matter,” Rubin explained.
Even though the law requires for students and staff to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day, it is not mandatory for students within the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District to do so if they refuse.
Even with this rule, though, the family still believes that reciting the pledge, “Publicly disparages plaintiffs’ religious beliefs, calls plaintiffs’ patriotism into question, portrays plaintiffs as outsiders and second-class citizens, and forces (the child) to choose between nonparticipation in a patriotic exercise or participation in a patriotic exercise that is invidious to him and his religious class,” according to USA Today.
Considering the year we are in and the different religious beliefs of all those in the U.S., it seems strange to still have “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Even though students within certain districts are not required to say the pledge, it can still make some feel left out from the rest of their classmates.
Many young children who claim to be different from the rest of their class, such as being atheist or gay can cause serious bullying. There have been recent studies (claimed in the lawsuit) stating that “atheists are the most disliked and distrusted minority in the country, ranking below recent immigrants, Muslims and gays.”
According to the AHA website, the recitation of the pledge violates Article One of the New Jersey Constitution which says that “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.”
This problem has been going on for quite some time now. There are numerous religions people follow and having a pledge that only acknowledges one God is discriminating against those who do not believe in that specific God. The family is doing the right thing in trying to make it fair for their child, but hopefully all the states can understand this message since it is so important to not be discriminatory toward other religions.
Christina Danno is a senior publishing major and columnist for The Vidette. Any questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.