A new lawsuit seeks to have the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance declared discriminatory under the state's Equal Rights Amendment. If successful, the effort could spread to other states.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case that examines whether the “under God” clause in the Pledge of Allegiance makes the state’s daily recitation of the Pledge in schools discriminatory.
This isn’t the first time the clause has come before a judge, though plaintiffs in this case are basing their arguments in equal protection guarantees – which are particularly strong under Massachusetts’s Equal Rights Amendment – rather than the First Amendment.
“It’s a different approach,” says David Niose, the attorney for the plaintiffs and president of the Secular Coalition for America. “We have constitutional protections demanding equality. The state statute that requires daily recitation – sponsored by school, led by teacher – of the Pledge of Allegiance, obviously discriminates against atheist and humanist children. On a daily basis, you’re having patriotism defined and having children indoctrinated in way that exalts one religious group and marginalizes atheists and humanists.”