Court Debates Whether Pledge of Allegiance ‘Under God’ is Form of Discrimination

Boston judge to weigh in on the heavily litigated phrase

  • Share
  • Read Later
Alex Wong / Getty Images

Candidates recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony on Aug. 13 at Woodson High School in Fairfax, Virginia.

The U.S. Flag Code, a little known set of advisory laws that detail the proper conduct and handling of the Stars and Stripes, states that the pledge of allegiance “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.” Students can ignore this rule, of course — it is, after all, only advisory — and choose to remain seated while other students pledge allegiance “under god.” But then there are those two little words. Should atheists and secularists have to recite them?

(MORE: Unveiling America’s First Public Monument to Atheism)

According to a suburban Boston family, they do not, and they’ve decided to challenge the two offending words in court, arguing that the wording is in breach of the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution.

Children have the right to opt out of the pledge, but according to Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association, which is assisting the plaintiffs, “The opt-out itself is exclusionary and unpleasant” because children who do so are ostracized by their peers.

The court will begin deliberations on Wednesday.