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Massachusetts court rejects challenge to 'under God' in pledge

A judge for the Middlesex Superior Court in Massachusetts on Friday rejected a challenge [opinion, PDF] raised by public school children and their parents challenging the inclusion of the phrase "under God" in the US Pledge of Allegiance. In her decision, Judge S Jane Haggerty ruled that the inclusion of the phrase does not automatically convert the pledge into a prayer:

I can only conclude that the insertion of "under God" into the pledge has not converted it from a political exercise that is "an acknowledgement of sovereignty, a promise of obedience, a recognition of authority above the will of the individual, to be respected and obeyed," and into a prayer. ... Accordingly, the pledge is not a religious exercise, and, in that context, the daily recitation of "under God" does not constitute an affirmation of a "religious truth."
The court ruled that because the phrase does not constitute a type of religious prayer or truth, it is not a violation of the plaintiffs' right to Equal protection under the Massachusetts Constitution [text].

Other courts have also upheld the Constitutionality of the controversial phrase. In November 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that a New Hampshire law requiring schools to schedule voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance is constitutional. In October, of that year the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the words "one state under God" [JURIST report] in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance do not violate the First Amendment. That March the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that teacher-led recitation of the pledge in public schools does not violate the constitution [JURIST report]. In 2008 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit upheld [JURIST report] part of a Florida law that requires students in grades kindergarten through 12 to obtain parental permission in order to be excused from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

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