Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SJC Rules Pledge of Allegiance Recitation in Public Schools Does Not Constitute Religious Discrimination

On May 9th, in Jane Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, the SJC ruled that even though the words "under God" were part of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited every morning in school, the words do not discriminate against atheist students.  The court stated that recitation of the Pledge is voluntary and that ... "the pledge is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one."

Justice Lenk, in concurring, leaves an opening for further litigation...."I concur in the result and much of the reasoning of the court's opinion. I write separately to note my view that the presence of the phrase "under God" in the pledge of allegiance (pledge) creates a classification that is potentially cognizable under the equal rights amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution, art. 1 of the Declaration of Rights, as amended by art. 106 of the Amendments, although not on the record in the present case."

Although Americans alive today may assume that the Pledge was handed down by our founding fathers, it was actually written in 1890s by a minister on assignment from a youth magazine.  The original version did not mention God.  It was not until 1954, during the Cold War that "under God" was added to the Pledge in order to contrast our society with atheistic communist regimes.