BOSTON -- The state's highest court has ruled Friday in favor of the Acton-Boxboro Regional School District in deciding that reciting the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance is not a violation of the rights of any student in the state.
"We hold that the recitation of the pledge, which is entirely voluntary, violates neither the Constitution nor the statute," the state Supreme Judicial Court wrote.
At a hearing last September, the justices heard arguments from Fitchburg attorney David Niose, representing the American Humanist Association and "Jane and John Doe," an unidentified atheist family with three children that sued the Acton-Boxboro Regional School District claiming religious discrimination.
In his argument, Niose told the justices that schoolchildren over the years have been "indoctrinated" by the pledge to think that believing in God is patriotic. But those two words "invalidates atheists'' and labels them as "unpatriotic," he argued.
Attorney Geoffrey Bok, representing the Acton-Boxboro schools, said his district allows children to voluntarily opt out of saying the "under God," denying that anyone with atheist or humanistic beliefs has been discriminated against or intimidated. He rejected the idea that the pledge is a prayer
Chief Justice Roderick Ireland wrote, "Although the words 'under God' undeniably have a religious tinge, courts that have considered the history of the pledge and the presence of those words have consistently concluded test the pledge, not withstanding its reference to God, is a fundamentally patriotic exercise, not a religious one."
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