On Saturday, April 19, the American Humanist Association (AHA), an organization committed to secular government, filed suit in New Jersey against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District on behalf of an atheist family who seeks to have the phrase “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance . (Ironically, this challenge to the reference to the Judeo-Christian God came in the midst of the Jewish celebration of Passover and the Christian celebration of Easter.) Congress first added the phrase to the Pledge in 1954 amidst the Cold War with the supposedly “godless” Soviet Union .
The AHA suit alleges that the phrase alienates and isolates atheist students, violating New Jersey’s rights and privileges clause, which forbids discrimination on the basis of religion . AHA attorney David Niose argues that the inclusion of the phrase in the Pledge indicates to children that “patriotism is tied to a belief in God” . He further contends that the recitation of the Pledge contributes to discrimination against atheists and marks them as “second-class citizens” . The AHA has already filed a similar suit in Massachusetts, which the Massachusetts Supreme Court is in the process of deciding .