Glenview Elementary School students in Haddon Heights, New Jersey, have been saying "God bless America" after the Pledge of Allegiance every morning before classes since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
"It just became sort of a habit," school principal Sam Sassano told the Post-Courier. "Now it's part of the culture here."
However, that prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) to write a letter to the school on Dec. 30, 2015, that said "invoking God’s blessing as a daily ritual is unconstitutional and in violation of the Establishment Clause, since it allegedly promotes religious over non-religious beliefs, especially with young, impressionable children."
The ACLU-NJ's letter prompted Sassano to send a letter to parents informing them that the school would not stop students from saying "God bless America," but would "explore alternative methods of honoring the victims and first responders of the 9/11 tragedy."
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Sassano told the newspaper that many parents are upset and are going to instruct their kids to say "God bless America" after the Pledge of Allegiance; it's not clear what the kids themselves want to do.
Ed Barocas, the ACLU-NJ's legal director, countered: "This was not students' speech, this was a daily recitation at an official school assembly led by the school officials."
As confirmed by Sassano, the children can still say "God bless America" on their own, however, a major leader on the Religious Right is crying foul.
Jim Daly, head of Focus on the Family, wrote a blog post on Jan. 6 entitled, "It’s Now Illegal to Say 'God Bless America?'"
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Daly wrote in the posting: "[W]here was the federal government’s sympathy and concern this week when students at a New Jersey school were forced to stop their patriotic tradition of saying 'God Bless America' after the reciting the Pledge?"
"That tradition began after the 9-11 terrorist attacks," Daly added. "However, due to recent threats from the ACLU, it has abruptly ended. Parents have said their kids want to keep saying the phrase regardless, but they stand alone—while the government remains silent."
But the public school is part of the government and has not remained silent as Sassano has said the school will not stop the students from saying, "God bless America."