NJ school sued after atheists object to 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance

AP PhotoPledge of Allegiance

An atheist family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District for having classroom recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. The Pledge contains the words "under God," which the New Jersey family finds offensive.

Identifying themselves only as John Doe, Jane Doe, and Doechild, the family retained the American Humanist Association (AHA) for representation in the religious discrimination lawsuit.

The AHA works to advance a humanist viewpoint encompassing atheism, agnosticism, secularism, naturalism, rationalism, and other "nontheistic views," according to their website.

The Does' lawsuit states that each school day, Doechild recites the Pledge of Allegiance as part of a "flag-salute exercise."

According to the lawsuit, the AHA maintains that "by affirming that the United States is one nation 'under God,' the daily classroom Pledge recitation directly contradicts the religious beliefs and principles of the plaintiffs."

The suit goes on to compare the Does' plight to that of all non-Christians in America.

"Just as America's Jews, Hindus, and Muslims would feel excluded, marginalized and stigmatized if they were told by their government on a daily basis that the United States is one nation 'under Jesus,'" the suit reads, "so do the Does feel about their government affirming to them through a regular public school exercise that their country is 'under God.'"

School district attorney David Rubin stated that students do not have to participate in the Pledge, but New Jersey state law requires schools to have a daily recitation.

The Doe family stated that the child is not being forced, and wants to say the Pledge.

"While Plaintiffs recognize that Doechild has the right to refuse participation in the flag-salute exercise and Pledge recitation," the lawsuit says, "the child does not wish to be excluded from it."

The school district stated that the AHA suit is unfortunate.

"We are disappointed that this national organization has targeted Matawan-Aberdeen for merely obeying the law as it stands," Rubin said in a statement.