A New Jersey state judge ruled that hearing the Pledge of Allegiance every day at school—including the words “under God”—does not violate the constitutional rights of atheist students.
In 2014, a student filed a lawsuit against the Matawan-Aberdeen school district in Monmouth County, because he believed that the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminated against atheists and those of non-Christian faiths, in violation of New Jersey's constitution. The student believed that having to hear the phrase “under God” every day in school fostered a marginalizing environment and made non-Christians feel like “second class citizens.”
The American Humanist Association, a national atheist group, filed a suit along with the students and his parents, who are not identified by name in court papers. Currently, New Jersey law requires daily recitation of the pledge in the state's public schools, according to app.com.
State Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman dismissed the case in February, citing a New Jersey law that states students are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance if they have “conscientious scruples” against doing so.
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Bauman stated that Christianity and references to God have been woven into the customs and traditions of the United States, but they do not endorse any faith. The references, Bauman said, are only an acknowledgement of the role religion played in the founding of the country.
“The pledge of allegiance, in this historical context, is not to be viewed, and has never been viewed, as a religious exercise,” wrote Bauman in his decision. The pledge was meant to promote the “core values of duty, honor, pride and fidelity to country on which the social contract between the United States and its citizens is ultimately based.”
The Monmouth County student said that he actually wanted to engage in the Pledge of Allegiance as a patriotic act, but that he didn’t want to do so if it compromised his principles.
In April 2015 the 45-day time frame for the American Humanist Association to file an appeal of the judge’s decision expired without an appeal being filed.
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“Protecting students from viewpoints and ideas that may offend or upset them is not and has never been the role of public schools in America,” wrote Bauman.
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