Atheists, Humanists Sue to Cut "Under God" Out of Pledge of Allegiance
Liberty Institute takes action to save traditional pledge in New Jersey school district . . .
This week, Liberty Institute and our volunteer attorneys filed a motion to intervene in a case involving atheists’ attempt to scrub “under
God” from the Pledge of Allegiance
. The motion was filed on behalf of our
clients The American Legion, The American Legion Department of New Jersey, and
The American Legion Matawan Post 176.
In March, the American Humanist
Association, representing anonymous plaintiffs, sued the Matawan-Aberdeen
Regional School District for conducting the daily, voluntary recitation of the
Pledge of Allegiance in its schools in accordance with New Jersey law.
The lawsuit, filed in the Monmouth County Superior Court of New
Jersey, seeks to have the Pledge’s inclusion of the phrase “under God” declared
unconstitutional under the New Jersey Constitution, even though the United States Supreme Court has
repeatedly described the “under God” wording in the Pledge of Allegiance as
constitutional and even though recitation of the Pledge or any portion of
the Pledge is completely voluntary.
unfortunate that the school and the court must waste precious time and
resources on an obviously meritless lawsuit,” said Roger Byron
Liberty Institute Senior Counsel.
Byron continued, “In May, the
U.S. Supreme Court yet again used the Pledge of Allegiance as an example of a
clearly lawful practice.”
Liberty Institute’s motion on behalf of The American Legion asks the
court to allow the Legion to become a party in the lawsuit for the purpose of
defending the traditional Pledge of Allegiance. In addition, Liberty Institute filed a motion to dismiss
, asking the court to drop
the case altogether since the lawsuit is without merit.
PLEDGE FOSTERS PATRIOTISM
Originally written in 1892, the
Pledge of Allegiance inspires patriotism and helps to train students to be good
citizens. The primary
purpose of the Pledge is to dedicate allegiance to America’s flag “and
to the Republic for which it stands.” Its secondary
purpose is describing the United States to which allegiance is pledged,
nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,”
acknowledging the principles upon which America has historically stood.
American Legion, which works to instill patriotism and respect for America’s
flag, was instrumental in crafting the current language of the Pledge of
Allegiance. The Legion, chartered by Congress in 1919, is the largest wartime
veterans service organization in the nation with approximately 2.3 million
In 1923, the Legion convened the very first National Flag Conference,
attended by President Harding, as well as the second National Flag Conference
the following year. At these conferences,
the words of the Pledge were changed
from “I pledge allegiance to my Flag” to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of
the United States of America.” In 1942, the Legion led the way in convincing
Congress to adopt into law the Flag Code that included the Pledge. Similarly, in 1954 the Legion worked to ensure that the words “under God” were
added to the Pledge of Allegiance.
Federal courts have repeatedly affirmed the constitutionality of the
Pledge of Allegiance in public
schools. The U.S. Supreme Court has
consistently used the “under God” language in the pledge as an example of a
lawful, constitutional activity, including in 1984 when the Court observed that
“the language ‘One nation under God,’ as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to
the American flag . . . recited by thousands of public school children—and
adults—every year” is a “reference to our religious heritage” in the same vein
as “official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance in
deliberations and pronouncements of the Founding Fathers.”
TAKE AIM AT PATRIOTIC PLEDGE
Liberty Institute, with volunteer attorneys, also took action in
August of last year on behalf of The American Legion to defend the Pledge of
Allegiance in Massachusetts, where the American Humanist Association also
represented anonymous plaintiffs in a similar legal challenge to the Pledge of
Allegiance. The American Legion filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in that
case in support of the traditional Pledge. Following the U. S. Supreme Court’s lead, earlier this year, the
Massachusetts Supreme Court held that Pledge was constitutional.
, Liberty Institute President and CEO, said, “Our country is full of
religious history and heritage, including the founding belief that our
liberties come from God, and thus no government can take those away.”
Shackelford continued, “This attempt to enact some sort of
religious cleansing is not the law in this country and never has been. That
would be religious hostility.”