- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2014

Atheists have filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Jersey parents who decry the fact that their child is subjected to hearing the words “under God” during daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States.

The American Humanist Association — a group with a slogan that reads “Good without a God” — said the suit was filed on behalf of a Monmouth County family whose members want to remain anonymous. The gist of the suit is that the school-sponsored pledge with its accompanying “under God” phrase discriminates against atheist children, the group said in a written statement.

The AHA initially tried to resolve the issue by sending a letter to the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. The school, however, declined to put an end to the pledge.

So AHA launched a lawsuit.

“Public schools should not engage in an exercise that tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God,” David Niose, attorney for the AHA’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in the group’s press release. “Such a daily exercise portrays atheist and humanist children as second-class citizens, and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.”

The AHA says the Pledge violates Article 1 of the state Constitution that says: “No person shall be denied the enjoyment of any civil or military right, nor be discriminated against in the exercise of any civil or military right, nor be segregated … in the public schools, because of religious principles.”

The group said the Pledge, as originally penned, never included the phrase “under God,” and schools should only recite the pre-1954 version.

“It’s not the place of state governments to take a position on God-belief,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA. “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.”

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