Atheists, Humanists Sue to Cut “Under God” Out of Pledge of Allegiance

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from Liberty Institute,

In March, the American Humanist Association, representing anonymous plaintiffs, sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District for conducting the daily, voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in its schools in accordance with New Jersey law.

The lawsuit, filed in the Monmouth County Superior Court of New Jersey, seeks to have the Pledge’s inclusion of the phrase “under God” declared unconstitutional under the New Jersey Constitution, even though the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly described the “under God” wording in the Pledge of Allegiance as constitutional and even though recitation of the Pledge or any portion of the Pledge is completely voluntary.

“It is unfortunate that the school and the court must waste precious time and resources on an obviously meritless lawsuit,” said Roger Byron, Liberty Institute Senior Counsel.

Byron continued, “In May, the U.S. Supreme Court yet again used the Pledge of Allegiance as an example of a clearly lawful practice.”

This week, Liberty Institute and our volunteer attorneys filed a motion to intervene in a case involving atheists’ attempt to scrub “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. The motion was filed on behalf of our clients The American Legion, The American Legion Department of New Jersey, and The American Legion Matawan Post 176.


Originally written in 1892, the Pledge of Allegiance inspires patriotism and helps to train students to be good citizens. The primary purpose of the Pledge is to dedicate allegiance to America’s flag “and to the Republic for which it stands.” Its secondary purpose is describing the United States to which allegiance is pledged, as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” thereby acknowledging the principles upon which America has historically stood.

The American Legion, which works to instill patriotism and respect for America’s flag, was instrumental in crafting the current language of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Legion, chartered by Congress in 1919, is the largest wartime veterans service organization in the nation with approximately 2.3 million members.

In 1923, the Legion convened the very first National Flag Conference, attended by President Harding, as well as the second National Flag Conference the following year. At these conferences, the words of the Pledge were changed from “I pledge allegiance to my Flag” to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.” In 1942, the Legion led the way in convincing Congress to adopt into law the Flag Code that included the Pledge. Similarly, in 1954 the Legion worked to ensure that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently used the “under God” language in the pledge as an example of a lawful, constitutional activity, including in 1984 when the Court observed that “the language ‘One nation under God,’ as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag . . . recited by thousands of public school children—and adults—every year” is a “reference to our religious heritage” in the same vein as “official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance in deliberations and pronouncements of the Founding Fathers.”

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