Point of View

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 . . .


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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.
“It is 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.

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, as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” thereby acknowledging the principles upon which America has historically stood.
The 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 members.
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.”

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.
Kelly Shackelford, 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.”







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