The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center announced earlier this year that it had filed a lawsuit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in Monmouth County, New Jersey. If successful, the lawsuit would put an end to saying the Pledge of Allegiance in the state’s public schools.
Much like their (failed) lawsuit in Massachusetts, the plaintiffs are anonymous for the time being (presumably to avoid harassment from Christians) and the argument is all about discrimination. They’re not trying to take “Under God” out of the Pledge — instead, they’re arguing that reciting the Pledge itself goes against the state’s constitution and that ritual should stop immediately.
The AHA’s New Jersey lawsuit says:
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. Jane Doe, John Doe, and Doechild embrace a Humanist world view and do not believe that any God exists or that any country is “under God.” Despite this, on a daily basis the Defendants public schools assert, through an official, school-sponsored patriotic exercise, that in fact the Does’ religious views are wrong.
Although the Does have no desire to evangelize their Humanism and atheism, they strongly desire to be treated equally, not as second-class citizens, by their government and school system.
Today, a judge finally heard oral arguments in the case.
The school district doesn’t require that students say the pledge. [Judge David] Bauman said there wasn’t any evidence the student in question had been “bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated.” [But] he also noted during his questioning of district attorney David Rubin that district policy requires parents whose children don’t say the pledge to furnish an explanation in writing.
Keep in mind that Bauman’s complaint against the Humanists — that they were never really mistreated — was the main argument the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court made when dismissing the AHA’s previous lawsuit. (Which is incredible to me, as a non-lawyer, because it’s almost suggesting you need to get beaten up in order to show the Pledge is discriminatory.)
But the district policy — that you better have a good reason not to stand up for the Pledge — is clearly over the top.
Bauman, who was nominated to the bench by Gov. Chris Christie, says he’ll issue a ruling very soon. I’m not optimistic… but I felt the same way about the Massachusetts case and was pleasantly surprised when a lower court judge ruled in the AHA’s favor.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)