Monday, September 02, 2013

Pledge Of Allegiance Case Goes To Massachusetts' Supreme Court

Courtesy of HuffPo: 

Massachusetts’ highest court on Wednesday (Sept. 4) will consider whether the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is a violation of students’ rights. 

Since the addition of the phrase “under God” in 1954, the pledge has been challenged repeatedly as a violation of the separation of church and state. In 2004, one case reached the Supreme Court, but ultimately failed, as have all previous challenges. 

But the current case before the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, is different because lawyers for the plaintiffs, an anonymous atheist couple, won’t be arguing about federal law but rather that the compulsory recitation of the pledge violates the state’s equal rights laws. They argue that the daily recitation of the pledge is a violation of their guarantee of equal protection under those laws. 

This change of tack in pledge challenges is modeled on a successful precedent laid down in the same court on gay marriage. In 2003, Massachusetts’ Supreme Judicial Court ruled 4-3 in favor of a same-sex couple seeking the right to marry under the state’s equal rights laws. Their win led to similar successful challenges in other state courts — something that could happen here if judges rule for the plaintiffs. 

“You would then see a rash of state court lawsuits challenging the pledge all over the country,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is arguing for the defendants. “A win for us would completely avoid that unnecessary harm. And it would affirm that it is not discriminatory to have the words ‘under God’ in the pledge.”

Could we get this lucky?

I have had the unfortunate task of leading schoolchildren in the pledge numerous times while workign for the public school system and I can tell you that when the "one nation under God" part rolled around I damn near gagged on it every time. 

To be honest I am not a huge fan of ANY Pledge of Allegiance, it smacks a little of Nazi Germany in my opinion. However at the very least these children should not be forced to pledge their allegiance to a God that many of their families do not worship, and who they themselves are increasingly likely to deny once reaching adulthood.

I can tell you one thing, this case is going to drive the Fundamentalists out of their freaking minds!

I will keep my fingers crossed that it does even more than that.


  1. Anonymous6:45 AM

    The "pledge" is just so creepy, even without "under god."

  2. Sally in MI7:11 AM

    Agreed. I actually don't say 'under God' on the rare occasions I am in a situation where this pledge is being midlessly recited. In fact, I don't say any of it. If I thought for one minute the fundies actually believed in "one nation , indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" that would be different.
    Speaking of fungii, where's Sarah's Labor Day FB rant, extolling the virtues of American labor and her union brothers and sisters? Just because she called them 'thugs' a few weeks back, doesn't mean she can't embrace them today. Anything for a buck.

    1. Anonymous8:34 AM

      I haven't said the pledge for many years -although I do stand silently and respectfully, which is what I do for others' public prayers.

      In the second grade I refused to say the pledge in solidarity with a young Jehovah's Witness classmate who was taunted and made fun of because she refused to participate. My mother was called and informed that I would not be excused because she (and therefore I) had no religious reasons for refusal.

      From high school on, I was increasingly bothered by the hypocrisy of "one nation , indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". About 20 years ago, I simply decided not to participate.

      I find it ludicrous that, in my experience, in public meetings, those who have never served in the military, seem to ignore that I fought for their right to pledge or not to pledge according to their personal conscience and whatever their reasons.

  3. angela7:13 AM

    When I was in the fourth grade (late sixties) I refused to stand up and say the pledge because I watched the news and didn't think there was liberty and justice for all----like now. My mother went to the school and basically stared the principal and my teacher down. I got to sit "quietly and respectfully" when everyone else stood and said the pledge. I think the teacher told the other kids it had something to do with my religion--(I had none), to deter a stampede of fourth graders from refusing to say the pledge.

  4. Maple7:19 AM

    As a Canuck, I've never understood why you folks hold your hand over your heart while singing the national anthem. I presume you do it when you recite the Pledge as well?
    Was the "one nation, under God" added in the 50's in response to the Communist hysteria? I totally agree that it crosses the separation of church and state boundary. However, as to reciting it in school -- is it really any different than singing the anthem? My school day included singing O Canada. But the only folks who ever recite the Canadian Citizenship Oath are immigrants who are acquiring Canadian citizenship. We know we are Canadian, and we know where our loyalties lie - first to our country and then to the rest of the world. We don't have to be reminded of it every day! Just sayin'....

    1. Anonymous8:36 AM

      I too am Canadian. In the early 1950's my dad was in the Royal Canadian Air Force and we were transferred to Washington D.C. for 2 years, and so I went to Grade 1 in the USA. One thing I remember from that long ago was reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, although I cannot say that at the time the words "under God" were included.

      At the age of 6 I was in no position to even understand what we were saying, what a pledge was, or why we were reciting it. I did it because in school that is how we started our day. The memory did, however stick with me so that now at the age of 67 I still remember doing it.

      Of course as I grew older I started to realize that I was Canadian, and as I pondered what I had pledged, I wondered what would have happened if I had refused to participate, not out of a sense of rebellion, but because essentially I had no business making that pledge. It makes me wonder now whether non-US citizens in school can opt out of saying the Pledge.

      As an aside, when we moved back to Canada we did start the day at school with "God Save The Queen" and "O Canada", and I don't recall any students opting out regardless of their citizenship.

      I am now wondering if these rituals actually mean anything. For example, I pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States for a year at an age which was clearly under any legal age of consent, and had no idea what I was pledging to. A pledge is a solemn promise, and yet how can anyone at the age of 6 understand the implications of promising allegiance to a foreign country.

      It was probably easier to get through the school years by observing these rituals regardless of whether they made sense, rather than facing the alternative of being labelled a troublemaker and facing negative comments on report cards.

      I think the issue is larger than the phrase "under God". Perhaps nobody should have to pledge allegiance to anyone or any thing until they become adults and can choose whether or not to do so.

  5. Anonymous7:37 AM

    Pledge = creepy ultra-nationalism.
    "Under God" = illegal, as the Mass. court, I'll wager, will rule on Wednesday.

    Yes, Maple, it was added during the anti-Communist hysteria of the '50s.
    Communists were "godless."

    Of course, the opposite doesn't hold true: that the "godless" are Communists. Whatever our religious views, we are full-fledged American citizens. Some of us are libertarian, some of us are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrians, Quakers, Shakers (only a few left), Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons (who aren't strictly "Christian"), and on and on.
    Some who believe in witches (Sarah Palin) and some who think witchcraft makes a mockery of religion....and some of us have no religion at all.

    Sarah and her consultants are trying to figure out what to say about Syria --
    the GOP is divided. Rand Paul, of "Team Rand," is all "Christian crusade."
    Left-and-right-leaning politicians can't make up their minds.

    Sarah's already voted for Allah, but she may have showed her hand too soon, in her hatred of President Obama. Which way will she swing now?

    Can't wait to see what she'll tweet next about crucial foreign affairs.

    Finally, yeah, Massachusetts! My home state. From the Pilgrims and their Rock, to the Boston Tea Party (lol), to Paul Revere and his bells, to John Hancock and his signature, to John Adams, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr. and Jr.) and on and on, to 2003 and same-sex marriage, to Romneycare (lol again!),and, now, perhaps, taking religion out of government. Leading the way to a saner world. Thanks, Bay State.

  6. Anonymous9:29 AM

    I'd often add, "...and a warm HEIL HITLER to you all!" at the end of the pledge, as it just STUNK of nationalism, in my mind. The kids would laugh, but the teachers went berserk.

  7. Anonymous10:04 AM

    When I was on a school board, we had a disciplinary case come to us: a student refused to stand and say the Pledge. He received disciplinary action, and after appeal, it came to the school board. All these school administrators were amazed and appalled when I told them that students have the right to refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance, and this was decided decades ago by the Supreme Court. (West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette) You see, in our state, there is a law that says it must be said in school every day.

    The remainder of the board decided, however, since it was so shocking that students had this right, to have the teachers review the Pledge and its meaning with all the students. It was decided that since all the kids had English class, to have this be done by English teachers, so that all the kids would have this discussion. I even agreed to this, since, as a general rule, I'm in favor of people having access to information. And what I suspect would happen, did.

    Many more students refused to stand for the Pledge.

    You see, most of them had never really thought about its meaning. They stand up, they say the words, who thinks about it? Once they thought about it, they felt it was a public oath they didn't want to take... so they stopped.

    I kept quiet about the result, once it was reported to us. No point rubbing it in.


    1. Anonymous10:33 AM

      Good on you, Ivyfree. Good on you!

    2. Anonymous10:02 AM

      Yes, good for you Ivyfree. It is curious however, that teachers and admin alike still want to pick this type of battle with a student. I recently had a kid that refused to stand but did all her academics and was not otherwise disruptive. The teacher decided to pick this fight with the student. Why? It seems that this would just be a great opportunity to educate.

  8. Persephone10:33 AM

    My high school students knew that I was an atheist and asked me how I could recite the pledge with them each day (as required by the district.) I told them that I said, "under cod," because it had just about as much meaning.

    1. Anonymous6:43 PM

      HAHAHAHH I replace Cod for God all the time... Good onya!

  9. surfergirl10:59 AM

    I am Canadian and have always thought the pledge was very nationalistic but have never encountered an American who seemed to question it. Please don't misunderstand me, I think that if you've thought through what you are saying and are ok with it then so am I, but mindless recitation I have little tolerance for.

  10. Anonymous11:17 AM

    The Supreme Court ruled half a century ago that public schools cannot compell students to recite the pledge or punish them for not doing so.

    1. Anonymous11:52 AM

      Growing up in Albany, N.Y. in the fifties, we didn't pledge allegiance in the public school our family attended. But we all became productive and patriotic citizens nonetheless.

  11. Anonymous2:49 PM

    When i had to recite the pledge for my citizenship it annoyed me to the high heavens. I was born in another country because it was illegal for my mother and father to marry here in the US ( liberty and justice sure and i got some ocean front property in Montana for you) and as my father is deceased i had to explain again and again why a child of an American had to immigrate ( thank you US Army for screwing up the papers and saying i was illegitimate because you would not recognize my parents marriage) I also knew that it was not always hand over heart and it was only changed after the hand in air was taken by Hitler. If that is not creepy enough when we had to do it for citizenship it freaked me out when two young girls from the audience stepped up to recite it. They were 5 and 6. It reeked of indoctrination. I understand patriotism and pride but it has always cheeped me out.

  12. Anita Winecooler6:21 PM

    I agree with you about it being "nazi" ish. Look at that photo, replace the flag with a nazi symbol. Same effect.

  13. Anonymous8:09 PM

    In my public school in New Jersey, we said not only the pledge, but also the lord's prayer. This was in the early 50's, and as a 10 year old I knew it was wrong.
    As an adult, and a teacher myself, I always skipped the "under God" part, and ended with "... SEEKING liberty and justice for all."

  14. I just did a post the Jehovah's Witness 1943 case before the US Supreme Court that IvyFree mentions:

    "In a 6-to-3 decision, the Court . . . held that compelling public schoolchildren to salute the flag was unconstitutional. The Court found that such a salute was a form of utterance and was a means of communicating ideas. "Compulsory unification of opinion," the Court held, was doomed to failure and was antithetical to First Amendment values. Writing for the majority, Justice Jackson argued that "[i]f there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

    The idea from this case that the majority can't vote away individual rights was cited by the California judge who invalidated Prop. 8.

  15. Anonymous10:10 PM

    In 1954 I was 10 years old. I remember every morning we would assemble along the stairs in the main corridor and recite the pledge, bow our hears in prayer, and listen to Ms Warfield, our principal, and yes that was her name, give the edicts of the day. This was in Texas.

    When "under God" was added to the pledge, there was always a mumbling as we tried to incorporate these words into our mandatory pledge to our country. We were kids. We did what we were told without question.

  16. No one should ever stand for, nor chant, the Pledge of Allegiance because it was the origin of the Nazi salute and Nazi behavior (see the new book "Pledge of Allegiance + Swastika Secrets" by the author Ian Tinny, regarding the work of the historian Dr. Rex Curry). The gesture was not merely similar. It is brainwashing and continues to cause Nazi behavior. Francis Bellamy was a religious wacko, a "Chrisitan Socialist" and his pledge was originally a small part of a larger program that included hymns, prayers, and references to the Bible and God, including the phrase "under God." That is why the original full pledge program cannot be performed in government schools (socialist schools).


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