Massachusetts Supreme Court Decides Pledge of Allegiance Case

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from The Huffington Post,

The Massachusetts Supreme Court decided on May 9 that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance as recited in public schools does not discriminate against non-religious students (Jane Doe v. Action-Boxborough Regional School District). Reciting the pledge was voluntary. The Court reviewed the social and legal history of the pledge that first appeared in 1892. The pledge was codified in 1942 with “under God” added in 1954. The Court concluded that reciting the pledge “is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one.” The Court cited the 2004 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Elk Grove United School District v. Newdow that contained a similar quotation.

The Court’s analysis applied Massachusetts state law but did look to other sources in support of its conclusions. Federal appellate courts that have considered the “under God” language have reached a similar result. While a Massachusetts statute required teachers to lead the pledge, all parties in the current case agreed that the recitation was voluntary. This is in accordance with the famous 1942 U.S. Supreme Court decision, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, that ruled that students could not be compelled to recite the pledge.

Nor could the plaintiffs demonstrate that refusing to recite the pledge unlawfully classified them and resulted in different treatment based upon this classification.”

The plaintiffs asserted that they felt “stigmatized,” “marginalized,” and “excluded” when others recited the pledge and they did not. However, there was no evidence of punishment, bullying, criticism, and ostracism as a result of declining to recite the pledge. Additionally, the plaintiffs stated that there was a poor public perception of atheists that might “possibly” lead to adverse actions. The Court found that this claim was insufficient.

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