'Under God' part of Pledge of Allegiance under review in Mass.

'Under God' part of Pledge of Allegiance under review in Massachusetts

Posted: Updated:
Children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, photo credit foxnews.com Children recite the Pledge of Allegiance, photo credit foxnews.com

(CNN) -- The Pledge of Allegiance is recited in classrooms across the country every morning -- and because of the words "under God," it is heard in courtrooms across the country seemingly just as often these days.

Every attempt to eliminate the mention of God has thus far failed, but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts will hear arguments on Wednesday seeking removal of the two words for a new reason: discrimination.

"This is the first challenge of its kind" said Roy Speckhardt, the executive director of the American Humanist Association, an atheist group arguing for the plaintiffs. "We feel very confident that we have a strong case."

That case, which was brought by an unidentified family of a student at a school in suburban Boston, will be argued on the premise that the pledge violates the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution. It is the first such case to be tried on the state level: All previous attempts have been argued in federal court on the grounds that 'under God' was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

"They're grasping at straws" said Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the attorney arguing to leave the pledge as it is. "They know they would lose again if they tried it under the First Amendment, so now they are trying a new tack."

Rassbach dismissed the discrimination claim because he said everyone has the right to opt out of saying the pledge. "This would be very different if they were forced to recite the pledge," he said.

But that makes little difference in the eyes of Speckhardt.

"The opt-out itself is exclusionary and unpleasant" he said. "Children are left with a bad choice: either stand up and recite something against your beliefs, or opt out and be ostracized."

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has previous high-profile and precedent-setting experience deciding cases hinging on the Equal Rights Amendment of the Massachusetts Constitution. In 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage with the Supreme Judicial Court's landmark Goodridge decision.

"I think there is a reason why they chose this court" Rassbach said. "But the law is the law, and I think the court will decide that this is not discrimination, but a disagreement."

Rassbach said he fears a loss in Massachusetts would inspire "copycat" lawsuits in the handful of other states that have similar clauses in their constitutions -- a fear Speckhardt certainly didn't assuage.

"We will absolutely be looking in other states if we should prevail."

  • Top StoriesMore>>

  • Main St. Bridge opens Thursday morning

    Main St. Bridge opens Thursday morning

    Thursday, April 17 2014 9:14 AM EDT2014-04-17 13:14:40 GMT
    The Main Street bridge over I-35 is open to traffic.
    A major overpass opens in Norman.
  • Overnight fire destroys SW OKC home

    Overnight fire destroys SW OKC home

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:51 AM EDT2014-04-17 12:51:13 GMT
    Firefighters are investigating after a fire destroys a home in Southwest Oklahoma City. The fire breaking out near SW 97th and S. Western.
    Investigators are trying to figure out how a house in Southwest Oklahoma City caught on fire overnight. The house fire happening near SW 97th and S Western at around 3am Thursday morning.
  • Norman's Main Street reopens; Lindsey Street reconstruction begins

    Norman's Main Street reopens; Lindsey Street reconstruction begins

    Thursday, April 17 2014 12:28 AM EDT2014-04-17 04:28:34 GMT
    Norman's Main Street is finally reopening, after years of construction, but Lindsey Street is next, and city planners say they expect more delays in this project.
    Norman's Main Street is finally reopening, after years of construction, but Lindsey Street is next, and city planners say they expect more delays in this project.
  • More HeadlinesMore>>

  • Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

    Casual marijuana use may damage your brain

    Thursday, April 17 2014 11:03 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:03:29 GMT
    If you thought smoking a joint occasionally was OK, a new study released Tuesday suggests you might want to reconsider.
    If you thought smoking a joint occasionally was OK, a new study released Tuesday suggests you might want to reconsider.
  • Main St. Bridge opens Thursday morning

    Main St. Bridge opens Thursday morning

    Thursday, April 17 2014 9:14 AM EDT2014-04-17 13:14:40 GMT
    The Main Street bridge over I-35 is open to traffic.
    A major overpass opens in Norman.
  • Overnight fire destroys SW OKC home

    Overnight fire destroys SW OKC home

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:51 AM EDT2014-04-17 12:51:13 GMT
    Firefighters are investigating after a fire destroys a home in Southwest Oklahoma City. The fire breaking out near SW 97th and S. Western.
    Investigators are trying to figure out how a house in Southwest Oklahoma City caught on fire overnight. The house fire happening near SW 97th and S Western at around 3am Thursday morning.
  • FOX25 Slideshows

  • FOX 25 FeaturesMore>>

  • Tell Me Something Good

    Tell Me Something Good

    Tired of all the bad news? Looking for some good news? Tell Me Something Good, does just that! FOX 25's Mike Brooks finds the good in Oklahoma and tells you all about it.
    Tired of all the bad news? Looking for some good news? Tell Me Something Good, does just that! FOX 25's Mike Brooks finds the good in Oklahoma and tells you all about it.
  • Waste Watch

    Waste Watch

    How are your tax dollars being spent? FOX 25 Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments, or any groups, are using your money wisely... or wasting it.
    How are your tax dollars being spent? FOX 25 Waste Watch tracks whether local, state and federal governments, or any groups, are using your money wisely... or wasting it.
Powered by WorldNow
Powered by 

WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KOKH. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.