On May 11, the Law Division of the Superior Court released an opinion in American Humanist Association v. Matawan-Aberdeen Reg’l Sch. Dist. The court’s decision upheld the constitutionality of the statute requiring the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance against allegations that the school district violated the equal protection clause of the New Jersey Constitution. The parents of a child in the district, avowed atheists, claimed that by including the language “under God” in the pledge, the state unilaterally defined patriotism in terms of God-belief and ignored the beliefs of atheists.
In upholding the statute, the court relied on the federal history of the pledge, including its 1942 adoption and the 1954 revision which added the words “under God.” The court underscored the fact that the pledge was not viewed as a religious exercise and found that it is intended to instill the core values of duty, honor, pride, and fidelity to country. The court, after noting that the pledge is entirely voluntary, explained that the recitation of the pledge does not distinguish pupils in a manner that subjects them to unequal treatment under the law. The requirement applied to those who believe in God, those who don’t, and those who have no opinion either way.