An atheist Acton family that has chosen to remain anonymous is suing the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, declaring that saying “one nation under God” during the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against their children.
State law dictates that schools deliver the pledge every day, but does not force students to recite it. Despite this, the local family says the phrase “under God” should be taken out of the pledge.
Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty heard both sides of the argument in court Feb. 13, and will decide the issue in the coming months. According to David Niose, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, named as Jane and John Doe to protect their children's identities, the religious content in the daily pledge is discriminatory.
“If the Pledge of Allegiance said that we are one nation under Jesus you wouldn’t have any trouble understanding why Muslims, Hindus and Jews would feel that pledge discriminates against them,” said Niose. “It is really the same thing here. There has been a line drawn that includes those who believe the nation is one nation under God and if you’re not in that circle you’re excluded.”
According to Superintendent of Schools Stephen Mills, the case has cost the school district $10,000.
“I’m in the middle of trying to get a $70 million budget approved for my school and here I am spending my day in court,” said Mills. “I would prefer to spend the money on textbooks. I’m already getting emails from people far away saying things like, ‘don’t you know Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior?’ But it comes with the job.”
Mills has 34 years of experience in public education and said that he has experienced students choosing not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance but never once has a student been discriminated against or punished for making that choice.