SCA President Tries "Under God" Case in Mass. Supreme Court Today
Washington, DC -The Secular Coalition for America today expressed support for the plaintiff in the case "Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District." Secular Coalition for America President, David Niose, attorney for the plaintiff, today will present oral arguments before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in the case.
The case challenges a state law that requires daily school-sponsored and teacher-led classroom recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Niose, on behalf of his client, is expected to argue that the wording "under God" in the Pledge discriminates against atheists and other nonbelievers, by instilling and defining patriotism according to a god belief.
"Atheist-humanist children love their country no less than do children who believe in God, and it's just wrong to have a daily patriotic exercise that invalidates them by associating patriotism with God-belief," said Niose. "If schools conduct a daily exercise to instill national loyalty," he added, "it should be inclusive and nondiscriminatory."
The Equal Protection clause was cited in Brown vs. Board of Education (1954) to fight racial discrimination, and has also been the basis for many other decisions rejecting discrimination against people belonging to various groups.
"This is a groundbreaking case for atheists and humanists, in part because it is the first in the nation to assert the rights of nonbelievers solely via Equal Protection and nondiscrimination-normally these cases are dealt with under the First Amendment," said Secular Coalition Executive Director, Edwina Rogers. "Part of the mission of the Secular Coalition is to increase respect for nontheists as a class of individuals who should not be discriminated against."
Ellery Schempp, co-chair of the Secular Coalition for Massachusetts, said he "heartily supports restoring the pledge" to its original version, which did not mention "God." The phrase "under God" was not incorporated into the Pledge of Allegiance until 1954.
Schempp, who this year commemorated the 50th anniversary of his landmark Supreme Court case, "Abington School District v. Schempp"-which declared school-sanctioned Bible readings unconstitutional-also serves on the Coalition's Advisory Board.
"We are not a nation unified under a god, we are a nation unified under our Constitution-our Constitution never mentions any god, and there are numerous god-beliefs and non-beliefs in our citizens," Schempp said. "Linking a god-belief to our love of our country is wrong for our school children. Non-believers, polytheists, and patriots deserve equal respect for their devotion to our Constitution."
The case was brought through the American Humanist Association's Appignani Humanist Legal Center. Niose previously served as president of the American Humanist Association, prior to his appointment as president of the Secular Coalition.
A rally in support of the lawsuit will be held in front of the John Adams Courthouse at 1 Pemberton Square #2500, Boston, MA 02108 from 8:30 am to 10:30 am today, organized by Secular Coalition for Massachusetts co-chair Zachary Bos. Representatives from the Secular Coalition for America and the Secular Coalition for Massachusetts, including Niose, will be on hand at the Courthouse today for interviews.
Contacts (On Site in Massachusetts):
- (For in-person interviews and/or to arrange interviews with Secular Coalition for America president and case attorney, David Niose): Kelly Damerow, Secular Coalition for America Director of Federal and State Affairs, Cell: (202)630-0801, [email protected]
- Ellery Schempp, Secular Coalition for Massachusetts co-chair, (781)367-4271
- Zachary Bos, Secular Coalition for Massachusetts co-chair and rally organizer, Cell: (617)935-4951, [email protected]
The Secular Coalition for America is a 501(c)(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of 11 diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.
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