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Massachusetts top court rules Pledge of Allegiance not discriminatory

[JURIST] The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts [official website] ruled [opinion] Friday that the Pledge of Allegiance's words "under God" do not discriminate against non-religious people since the language is patriotic and not religious. The case arose when the plaintiffs, Jane Doe and John Doe, commenced the suit in the Massachusetts Superior Court [official website], challenging the practice by which the pledge is recited each morning in the public schools of the town of Acton and the Acton-Boxborough regional school district. The plaintiffs alleged that the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance violates G.L.c. 276, §5, or the equal protection clause of the Massachusetts Constitution [text]. In June 2012 the Middlesex Superior Court [official website] rejected the challenge [JURIST report]. Taking note of other courts' decisions, the court stated, "The fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling "stigmatized" or "excluded" as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection principles."

Other courts have also upheld the constitutionality of the controversial phrase. In November 2010 the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [official website] 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 [official website] ruled that the words "one state under God" [JURIST report] in the Texas Pledge of Allegiance do not violate the First Amendment [Cornell LII]. That March the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that teacher-led recitation of the pledge in public schools does not violate the constitution. In 2008 the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] 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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