Written by Don Byrd
The Supreme Court of Massachusetts has agreed to hear a dispute over the requirement that school children recite the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase “under God.” Courts have consistently ruled against attempts to have the phrase removed from the pledge on church-state grounds. Here, the plaintiff is trying a somewhat different approach, arguing not that it violates religious liberty, but that it violates principles of equal protection that prohibit discrimination.
The family, who are secular humanists, claim that the phrase “under God” in the pledge is a violation of the state’s constitutional ban on religious discrimination.
In June, a lower court ruled against the family, saying the required recitation of the pledge was not discriminatory because it did not uphold one religion over another. The family appealed, and will now gain a hearing from the state’s highest court.
The U.S. Supreme Court has been clear in rejecting church-state challenges to government references to God that are ceremonial in nature. Like “In God We Trust” on currency, “Under God” in the Pledge has been held a constitutional acknowledgement of a higher power. But is it discriminatory?