An atheist student in Beaufort, South Carolina claims he’s been threatened with punishment from his teacher every time he attempts to go without saying the Pledge of Allegiance with his classmates. Now, the American Humanist Association is taking up his cause.
The ninth grade student at Right Choices Alternative School, part of the Beaufort County School District, has reportedly attempted to remain seated during the daily Pledge of Allegiance, but his teacher has allegedly made him stand up and even threatened him with punishment if he doesn’t adhere.
The student doesn’t want to recite the pledge because of the phrase, “Under God.” Reports also say that the teacher has repeatedly argued with the student over his atheist views and told him that his actions are disrespectful to service men and women.
“Threatening a student with punishment simply for exercising his or her right to sit out the Pledge demonstrates a shocking disregard for the rights of free speech and religious freedom,” said David Niose, legal director for the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center.
Roy Speckhardt, Executive Director of the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association, says that the student’s constitutional rights are being denied.
“No one should have her or his patriotism questioned for objecting to the phrase ‘under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Speckhardt in a press release. “Doing so marginalizes humanist and atheist kids as second-class citizens merely for exercising their constitutional rights.”
The student allegedly contacted the organization to let them know about his experience, and since then, they’ve sent a letter to the Beaufort County School District addressing it. Jeff Moss, superintendent of the school district, says that he has emailed teachers to remind them of students’ rights. Despite the teacher-in-question’s claims to the student that there was a policy requiring all pupils to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, Superintendent Moss says that no such policy exists.