A family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent, seeking to have the phrase “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that students recite every day.
A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Monmouth County on behalf of the family, who wish to remain unidentified, and the American Humanist Association claims that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge of allegiance discriminates against atheists, in violation of New Jersey’s constitution.
But the school district’s attorney says the district is simply following a state law that requires pupils to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.
“All we are doing is abiding by requirements of state law, we and approximately 590 other school districts in the state,” said the attorney, David Rubin, to whom Schools Superintendent David M. Healy referred questions about the lawsuit.
“If the group who’s brought this lawsuit questions the wisdom of that policy or the legality of it, we believe their arguments are much better directed to the state Legislature who’s imposed this requirement on us, rather than suing an individual school district on this matter,” Rubin said.
The American Humanist Association is a Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit organization that works to protect the rights of atheists, humanists and other nonreligious Americans.
While atheism addresses only the issue of the existence of a deity, humanists take a broader view that, in addition to rejection of the existence of deities, includes “values that are grounded in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, informed by scientific knowledge, and driven by a desire to meet the needs of people in the here and now,” according to the lawsuit.
The American Humanist Association has more than 24,800 members and 180 chapters and affiliates nationwide, including seven in New Jersey, the suit said
“Among these members and supporters are numerous parents of children who are, or will be, attending New Jersey public schools, including some who attend or will be attending the public schools of the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District,” it said.
The prekindergarten through 12th-grade district has five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. Rubin said that although the law requires recitation in schools of the Pledge of Allegiance, students within the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District are not required to recite it if they object. And federal courts determined years ago that students cannot be forced to do so, he added.
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SOURCE: Kathleen Hopkins and Amanda Oglesby
The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
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