VICTORY: ‘Under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance Upheld Unanimously by Massachusetts’ Highest Court

(Washington, DC) – In early May, Massachusetts’ highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, unanimously rejected the latest lawsuit challenging the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, ensuring that Massachusetts schoolchildren may continue reciting the Pledge in full each morning. The American Humanist Association, an atheist advocacy group, sought to overturn the Pledge in the lawsuit, claiming that the words “under God” were unconstitutional. Local Massachusetts schoolchildren, their parents, and the Knights of Columbus intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Pledge.

“Today the Court affirmed what should have been obvious—’God’ is not a dirty word,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, who argued the case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. “And it isn’t discriminatory either. The words ‘under God’ are a reminder to our children that government doesn’t give us our rights and it can’t take them away either. Preserving the Pledge protects the rights of every American.”

This is the Becket Fund’s fourth win in court protecting “under God” from attack. Last year, after Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty ruled in favor of the Pledge, the American Humanist Association appealed her decision to Massachusetts’ highest court. Oral arguments were held on September 4, 2013.

The unanimous Court rejected the American Humanist Association’s argument that recitation of the Pledge discriminates against atheist schoolchildren. Stating that recitation of the Pledge is completely optional, the Court ruled that no child must be silenced from reaffirming timeless American ideals because others disagree. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, writing for the unanimous court, stated “Here there is no discriminatory classification for purposes of art. No differing treatment of any class or classes of students based on their sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. All students are treated alike.”

“For those who have been attacking the Pledge we would offer this: our system protects their right to remain silent, but it doesn’t give them a right to silence others.” Rassbach added.


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