A national humanist group is suing Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in New Jersey, seeking to have the phrase "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. They contend that the phrase in the pledge is discriminatory toward humanist and atheist children.
The lawsuit was filed in state court last month and announced Monday by the American Humanist Association.
The group says the phrase, "marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots." The anonymous plaintiffs say those two words, which were added to the pledge in 1954, violate the state constitution's right to equal protection.
The suit does not name the child or the parents of the child, referring to them and John and Jane Doe and Doechild.
David Niose, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, did not provide any specific information about the plaintiff they represent, including what school the child attends and what grade he or she is in.
He claims that it's important to protect the identity of the people because they have already faced hostility.
The suit states that the child in question "has been personally confronted and shouted at in response to his openly identifying as an atheist." When questioned, Niose would not say whether the child was actually confronted in school or by whom the child was confronted.
According to USA Today, 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.
But school district lawyer David Rubin said the district is merely following a state law that requires schools to have a daily recitation of the pledge. He told NorthJersey.com that individual students do not have to participate.
"We are disappointed that this national organization has targeted Matawan-Aberdeen for merely obeying the law as it stands," Rubin said in a written statement.
The humanist group is also awaiting a ruling from a court on a similar case in Massachusetts.