“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America…”
Those words mark the start of the school day for children across Massachusetts. But, over the past few days, the pledge has gotten more than the typical amount of attention for the start of a school year.
And during that time, it seems, the words “Acton atheist” have been heard almost as often as the two words a local family is challenging the Pledge of Allegiance over.
The state’s highest court on Wednesday heard an anonymous Acton couple’s complaint that the words “under God” in the pledge discriminate atheists. In court on Wednesday, the family’s attorney asked the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts to ban the daily practice of reciting the pledge in public schools—something required by state law—according to a report from the Associated Press.
The SJC did not issue a ruling on Sept. 4. Justices will publish a written ruling within the next 130 days, a spokesperson from the SJC press office said.
Inside and outside of the court on Wednesday David Noise, the attorney representing the family and the American Humanist Association, argued the words “under God” are discriminatory and implies nonbelievers are unpatriotic, the AP reported.
Conversely, representation for the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District argued that no students are required to recite the pledge. Superintendent Stephen Mills echoed that sentiment outside of the court.
“Not only do we not require them to say ‘under God,’ we don’t require them to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Mills in an interview with CBS Boston. “It’s entirely voluntary.”
The Acton family’s case came before the SJC more than a year after it was heard in Middlesex Superior Court. There, a judge found the words “under God” do not violate the law or anti-discrimination policies.
To date, the Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District has cost the district $35,000, Mills said in the CBS Boston report.