Superior Court Judge David F. Bauman ruled on Feb. 6 that the words “under God” do not violate rights guaranteed to individuals under the New Jersey Constitution.
Bauman dismissed the lawsuit that was filed last year by the American Humanist Association which sought to remove the words from the Pledge of Allegiance in the Matawan-Aberdeen School District. This is now the sixth time the American Humanist Association has lost in its attempt to remove the phrase from the pledge.
"The Pledge of Allegiance, in this historical context, is not to be viewed, and has never been viewed, as a religious exercise," Bauman wrote in his 21-page decision issued on Feb. 4.
"Under (the association members') reasoning, the very constitution under which (the members) seek redress for perceived atheistic marginalization could itself be deem unconstitutional, an absurd proposition which (association members) do not and cannot advance here," Bauman wrote.
David Niose, the attorney for the association, argued that “the daily pledge recitation is a core part of how we define patriotism for children on a daily basis, so the exercise is discriminatory if it associates patriotism with God-belief.”
Nioise was referring to the New Jersey law that mandates the daily recitation of the pledge in the state’s public schools. According to an opinion piece in The Daily Journal, these cases have become common in the nation but tend to have the same result. The law allows any child to choose to not recite the pledge without any consequences or repercussions if he or she feels that it is discriminatory in any way. No student is required to say any part of the pledge, let alone the words “under God.”
The Daily Journal opinion article cites examples of vague references to God as being simply part of our culture. It notes every bill and coin is engrained with “In God We Trust,” Congress pays for chaplains with tax dollars and the president finishes taking the oath of office with “so help me God.” Even the Supreme Court opens with “God save the United States and this honorable court.”
Although the child whose family brought the case may feel "marginalized" by the phrase "Under God," that's not sufficient reason to remove the words, Bauman said.
"The Pledge of Allegiance isn't a prayer, and reciting it doesn't magically create an official state religion,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund. “The Pledge — in the tradition of Washington's Farewell Address or Lincoln's Gettysburg Address — is not a prayer to God, but a statement about who we are as a nation. Dissenters have every right to sit out the pledge, but they can't silence everyone else."
"The message today is loud and clear: ‘God’ is not a dirty word.”