New Jersey Superior Court Judge David Bauman will soon rule as to whether the phrase “under god” in the pledge of allegiance is discriminatory against atheists. The local school district is pressing the judge to throw out the lawsuit, saying that the pledge is voluntary. Both sides of the case have made compelling arguments.
“Harm is occurring every day the state is invalidating the plaintiff’s religious class.”
According to the AP, that was the argument made by David Niose, an attorney from the American Humanist Association who is representing the family, who will remain anonymous for the proceedings.
The school district’s defense has focused on the fact that saying “under god” in the pledge of allegiance is strictly voluntary, therefore treats all students equally.
Noise asserts that is “simply wrong.” Any child who wishes to not say the pledge of allegiance needs a written letter from their parents describing the reason. The ramifications for not turning in a note, however, isn’t clear.
The district’s attorney David Rubin knew of no case where parents failed to provide notification and said that the plaintiffs were filing a lawsuit against the official establishment of religion while “masquerading as an equal protection case.”
Judge Bauman also noted that there was no evidence that the unnamed student was “bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated.”
According to the AP, Rubin argued that the pledge was “an innocuous reference to the deity in a ceremonial setting” and not a religious exercise. He added that letting the lawsuit move forward would be like letting a student out of school for a religious holiday and then suing because it stayed open for other students.
Judge Bauman looked at a number of hypotheticals during the hearings, including whether replacing “under god” with “created by great white men” would be discriminatory to women and minorities. He also heard arguments about whether the state constitution, which uses the phrase “almighty god,” was also a problem.
According to Fox News, the American Humanist Association stood firmly behind the lawsuit, including its executive director Roy Speckhardt.
“It’s not the place of state governments to take a position on God-belief. The current Pledge practice marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots, merely because they don’t believe the nation is under God.”
It appears that New Jersey may be relatively more liberal about the “under god” issue. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a student in California was not only given detention for omitting the words “under god” from the oath, but failed from a speech and debate class. He was supposed to lead the school in the pledge of allegiance as part of a class assignment. The school in that case said in an official announcement that students had the option do to a different assignment.
Judge Bauman is expected to rule on the “under god” lawsuit in New Jersey shortly.
[Image Credit: Bernardo Fuller/Wikimedia Commons]