What is the Massachusetts Pledge of Allegiance Court Case All About?

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses the Pledge of Allegiance case in Massachusetts:

You can read more about the Pledge case here and here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I was at the secular rally in Boston this past Weds to support the plaintiffs. I got to talk to a few people in the press (my name tag said atheist – dad) and stated the same point:The Pledge places atheist students in a second class status. I missed sending my kids off to their first day of school in a new district (we’re moving) due to being there, but it was well worth it.

  • JMM

    I wrote a paper for an English class on why the Pledge of Allegiance should be re-written to fit modern times and the diversity of the different religions/no religion in America. I got a 20 out of 20 on it.

  • A3Kr0n

    Private citizens spend millions of dollars to get “under God” out of the pledge, and what happens if they’re successful? Someone will come up with other bone head idea, and we’re back to spending millions again. Color me pessimistic. There’s got to be a better way.

    • Jasper

      The way I see it, the likes of the FFRF, ACLU, AU, AA, etc, are the “Constitutional Police”. The judiciary will prosecute if something a case is brought to them, but we don’t otherwise have any constitutional-level version of police who patrol the streets.

      I see the quality of the society as something that has to be continually maintained through policing, and of course someone will come up with something new that violates the constitution. It’s not like we send our police out once, and then they retire.

      That’s the nature of society.

    • 3lemenope

      There’s got to be a better way.

      Well, for long term strategy there are better bang-for-your-buck avenues of social change. Education is the obvious one. Injecting one’s message into entertainment media is another. But while those are cost-effective long-term strategies, it is still important to fight the battle at the front, and that means expensive lawyers and tactical skirmishes over small scale violations.

      • Jasper

        What would be nice is if we can get to a point where those who run for school boards, city councils, etc, include “And I promise not to violate any of my constituent’s constitutional rights, no matter how much I think the founding fathers wanted them to be second class citizens”, alongside promising to reduce taxes, reduce crime, etc.

        • C Peterson

          What an optimist!

          I’m afraid that it is the desire to control other people- their behavior, their beliefs, their rights- that drives a significant number of politicians into that business to begin with. And even those who start out more idealistic get corrupted when they make politics a career instead of a temporary period of service.

  • Tim Miller

    Interesting tactic, but if it works the view of atheists will be degraded even further than it is now. I mean, folks already believe we worship the devil, and if this works we’ll be viewed as unpatriotic because we “removed the Pedged from ‘Murcan classrooms”…

    Oh well – enough griping. I’m just gonna go and paint more pentagrams.
    {sigh}

  • viaten

    I wonder if “religious” students would be allowed (I assume they would be) to say the pledge with “under God” elsewhere (a second time) in a non disruptive way (as a group supposedly). They act as if it’s such a big deal to them, but I wonder if they would bother. Praying doesn’t have to be heard by the non-religious for it to still be praying. But when saying the pledge, the point is to say it allowed together for everyone to hear. They are more able to be “in your face” with “under God”. I would think this should get through more easily than no forced prayer.

    • UWIR

      Religious students are free to gather during lunch period and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, or anything else they wish.

      And it’s not the students, for the most part, who are making a big deal about, but adults.

  • Jonas

    If you don’t like the peaceful redress of grievences through the civil court system of the country — You don’t have to live here.

    • TnkAgn

      I assume that this is in reference to FoX “contributor” Dana Perino’s idiotic reference to this case, and American atheists in general. But even if not, it’s still a good point.

  • TnkAgn

    Not only, IMO, is the recitation of the Pledge, as currently configured, a violation of the Constitution’s proscription on governmental endorsement of religion, but that compelling school children to take an oath, the meaning of which they cannot understand, is in very bad form.

    • Machintelligence

      Plus, pledging allegiance to a flag is idolatry, and the religious should be against it.

  • Donovan W Baker

    Hemant, thanks for doing a video on this one. I think this is a smarter way to view the pledge, as prejudice and seclusion are better issues in the the higher court’s eye and viewed more favorable in the way they have ruled on those in the past.

  • bickle2

    I refused to stand for it, and didn’t care if people thought I was patriotic or not. Being proud of an accident of birth geography is about the lamest thing one can ever be proud of

    The proper strategy isto make the prove in court we are indeed under a god. After ten minutes of failure to produce their star witness, the case is settled, and we can take the next steps toward banning religion

    • Mary

      Banning religion is going too far.If you want your rights to not believe in God respected, then you need to respect other people’s rights to believe. Maybe you meant that a little tongue-in-cheek, but it is still a bad sentiment.
      As far as the Pledge mentioning God, I think they should do away with that.

      • bickle2

        Fraud and mental illness that harms others are not a civil right.

        • Rob Bos

          It’s not often that this comparison is valid, but banning religion outright is a good way to send us the way of the USSR and China. It does not go well.

        • Mary

          The Constitution says that religious beliefs ARE a civil right. Furthermore there are peacable Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc. There is a move away from fundamentalist religion to ecletic spirituality also. I think that is a good move.

          However by threatening to ban religion do you not realize that you are only strengthening the position of the fundamentalist zealots??? Do you want a civil war?

          • bickle2

            I’m not strengthening anything other than the paranoia they already have

            Religion is fraud. Fraud is a crime, mental illness is not a virtue

            Given that Chrostians are forbidden from praying in public, taking away their churches is helping their beliefs. The second a single cent changes hands,it is a business and prosecutable

            • Mary

              “I’m not strengthening anything other than the paranoia they already have”

              THAT IS MY POINT. WHEN PEOPLE ARE THREATENED THEY FIGHT BACK. DO YOU WANT A WAR?

              “Given that Chrostians are forbidden from praying in public, taking away their churches is helping their beliefs”

              I don’t know what to make of that vague and condencending comment.

              Really what this comes down to is that you want to make everyone believe the way that you do. CAN’T YOU SEE THAT YOU ARE DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE FUNDIE RELIGIONS ARE DOING???

              Basically militant atheists ARE THE SAME as militant fundamentalists as they are BOTH about control and power. So you are a fundamentalist without a church.Congrats.

              • bickle2

                Yes, I do know I’m doing exactly what they’re doing. Because it’s what they understand.

                They don’t fight back. They’re cowards in the end. They already think they’re at war.They’re stupid inbred hicks, the result of ancestors who DID fight a war for a bunch of spoiled rich kids who thought it’d be fun. The South was never punished for the Civil war, and it’s really time that they were. It’s time to correct all of the things there that cause these problems, starting with religion. And that includes their idealogical allies. A conservative always backs down when you make the pain greater than the joy, so by making sure, that forinstance that you will be arrested for fraud for being a priest, we greatly reduce the number of people comisttting fraud. They are taken to the town square, where they are forced to their knees to pray and given 5 minutes to produce their god. You then beat them without mercy until god shows up, or they fall unconcious. Repeat as necessary. Repeat with the most famous peopel poossible, preferably eventually with a pope. I don’t care how they feel. They are demonstrably wrong. Their beliefs agregiously harm the world, they prop up criminals, murder and child abuse. Every Catholic should be punished for the actions of the whole, because they are directly paying and involved in it. And the second their members find out that being Catholic means that child rape charges will be filed against them, 95% will quit on the spot.

                And until they produce their god, we’re not “just as bad”. We’re better than they are, and we’re demonstrably right. Please, take the challenge from every one of you wishy washy milquetoast atheists and take the scientific challenge

                We’ll get 3 fundy volunteers, one for control

                You reason with them, I’ll abuse them, first one who gets them to denounce their god, blaspheme the holy spirit, and agree to a lifetime ban from religion wins.

  • Loic

    This does seem like a good new direction to deal with this issue. It IS a big deal for atheist parents. We told our children to do whatever felt the most comfortable to them during the Pledge, which ended up being them standing but not covering their hearts nor reciting the thing. Fortunately, there were enough other non-theist kids in their classes that they get too much hostility–but some. They are adults now and that is still how our whole family handles it. If anyone asks, we say that the grafting of “under god” into the thing is what’s truly unpatriotic.

  • UWIR

    “if people wanted to still say the Pledge of Allegiance in public school”
    I think this is poor phrasing. It should be “if people wants school-sponsored recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance”.

  • Edward Bellamy

    The Pledge of Allegiance should be ended because it was the origin of the stiff-armed German socialist salute and of that type of behavior (see the new book “Pledge of Allegiance + Swastika Secrets” by the author Ian Tinny, explaining the discoveries of the historian Dr. Rex Curry). Many atheists completely miss the point. Bellamy was very religious, a “Christian socialist” and his original pledge was a small part of his much larger pledge program replete with hymns, prayers, references to the Bible and God, including the phrase “under God.” That is why the original pledge program cannot be performed in government schools, only the pledge’s tiny part (to which the newer deifiication was also added in 1954). The old news media will never mention the Pledge’s putrid past, nor print a photo or video of the early American stiff-armed salute. If they did, then no one would stand for the pledge. The pledge continues to be the source of Nazi behavior wherein government schools (socialist schools) begin each day by teaching bullying and peer pressure and punish dissenters. The pledge is a daily repetition of the Milgram experiment, a witch hunt, and a demonstration of the banality of evil. Francis Bellamy is sometimes referred to as America’s Leni Riefenstahl because of his earlier influence on spreading socialism (and the stiff-armed gesture) through government schools et cetera.

  • Ed

    One thing that I fear about this case is setting the precedent that atheism is a creed. We like to say that atheism is a religion like off is a television channel or bald is a hair color. However, this case rests on the lack of creed being a creed. I guess like members of any minority, I don’t want to just be tolerated by the majority


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