U.S. Supreme Court
June 17, 2011
Education: Constitutionality of state law mandating recitation of Pledge of Allegiance in public school classrooms - Certiorari Denied
Denying certiorari, the United States Supreme Court has let stand a First Circuit decision that the New Hampshire School Patriot Act, which requires the state's public schools to set aside a time during each day for a voluntary, teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. In so ruling, the Court of Appeals considered the text of the statute as a whole, as well as context and circumstances. There was no claim that a student was required to advance a belief in theism or monotheism, nor was there any claim that a student was even encouraged by the faculty to say the Pledge if the student chose not to do so. Although the Pledge includes the words "under God," the principal or primary effect of the Act was not the advancement of religion, the court found. Instead, the primary effect of the Act was the advancement of patriotism through a pledge to the American flag as a symbol of the nation.
In their petition for a writ of certiorari, the plaintiffs, a national association of atheists and agnostics, and a New Hampshire family comprised of atheists and agnostics, contended that, whether the family's children participated or not, there remained implicit in each Pledge recital the message that the religious views of the children and their parents were wrong. While acknowledging that every federal circuit court that has addressed a state pledge statute has rejected the claim of unconstitutionality, the petition noted that the bases for those rulings were remarkably diverse and reflected the "disarray" of the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause jurisprudence. Each of the federal appellate courts' approaches also would have validated "one Nation under Jesus" or "one Nation under Protestantism," the petition asserted, adding that the diversity of arguments appeared to be "nothing more than the proverbial mud being tossed in the hope that some [would] stick." (Case below: Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Hanover School Dist., 626 F.3d 1 (C.A.1-N.H. 2010).)
Freedom From Religion Foundation v. U.S.
2011 WL 1322972