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SJC: 'Under God' to Stay in Pledge After Lawsuit by Acton Atheists

The couple argued the phrase stigmatizes their children.

File photo.
File photo.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Friday ruled the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance can stay.

An Acton couple, who are atheists and identified only as "John and Jane Doe," filed a legal challenge demanded the phrased be removed. They have three students in the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, according to the Boston Globe.

The couple argued their children would be labeled 'unpatriotic' if they refused to take the pledge. 

“The fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling ‘stigmatized’ or ‘excluded’ as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection principles," Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote, the Globe reported.

A lawyer representing the couple previously said, “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. 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.”

Daniel and Ingrid Joyce, another Acton couple with children in the school system, filed a separate legal challenge to keep the phrase in the pledge.

Last month, a New Jersey couple filed lawsuit to have "under God" removed from the pledge. That state's court system has yet to issue a ruling.

joquave May 10, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Russia is an atheist country...just saying.
Andrew Popelka May 10, 2014 at 04:55 PM
Well, in my humble opinion, if the atheist family wanted to change something which overwhelming majority of people want to stay, they should have at least the decency to identify themselves, and not to be cowardly hiding behind the "Joe and Jane". Also, if this is so important issue to them, they should have financed the process, not to let Acton taxpayers to uselessly spend money on lawyers; such money could be much better spend on educating our kids. And one more - they should educate themselves about the principles of democracy. One can not rule many - that's called something different.
Mara May 10, 2014 at 05:11 PM
I remember when the Pledge of Allegiance did NOT have the "God" phrase in it. Only when McCarthyism was rampant (now there's a charming connection to God) was it inserted. You know, in the 1950's. I'm religious and don't need these constant reminders of God in order to behave with rectitude.
Jim Snyder-Grant May 10, 2014 at 07:08 PM
The original version, "one nation indivisible.." included all of us. At the height of the Red Scare, the ugly edit was added: "one nation, under God, indivisible..." The "under God" part was dropped in the middle of the phrase, throwing away the importance of our indivisibility as a nation, and excluding those of us who don't find a mention of God appropriate in a national pledge. I don't expect this awkward edit to go away in my lifetime, but I'd be happy to be surprised.

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