Education Law

Top Court in Massachusetts Will Hear 'Under God' Pledge Case Citing State Constitution


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The top court in Massachusetts has agreed to decide whether public schools are violating state equal protection guarantees by requiring students to recite the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court agreed last week to hear the suit by an atheist family, the Washington Post’s On Faith blog and the Boston Globe report.

The suit is the first of its kind to seek equal rights for atheists based on state equal protection guarantees rather than traditional establishment clause arguments, according to a press release by the American Humanist Association. Its legal center sued on behalf of the plaintiffs.

A family supporting the pledge intervened in the lawsuit. They are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which also issued a press release.

The principal of the defendant school district has said in a court affidavit that children who disagree with the pledge are allowed to opt out, according to the Globe account. But that doesn’t go far enough, according to David Niose, the lawyer for the plaintiffs. “It’s hardly a consolation that they get to sit down and watch while their class conducts this disparaging exercise,” he told the Globe.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “5th Circuit Upholds ‘Under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance”

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