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A Monmouth County family is suing a New Jersey school district, alleging that the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance is discriminatory because it asks students to pledge “under God.”
The family, represented by the American Humanist Association, claims that the daily pledge discriminates against atheists and violates the right to equal protection under the state Constitution. The association works to make sure atheists are treated equally in society. The lawsuit was filed in state Superior Court against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent David M. Healy.
Public schools in New Jersey are required under state statute to have students salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance on each school day. The plaintiffs, parents of a minor who goes to school in the district, said that as atheists they do not accept the existence of a God or gods. They argue that the “under God” part of the pledge maligns their religious beliefs and calls their patriotism into question.
The “under God” language also fuels prejudice against atheists by casting them as outsiders and creating an “official public atmosphere of disapproval” of their religious views, said the plaintiffs, who filed the lawsuit anonymously.
The ACLJ has filed an amicus brief with the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to protect the rights of school districts to partner with religious private schools. In July, a federal district court in Tennessee ruled that a Tennessee school board violated the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause by contracting with Kingswood School, a religious private school, to run the school board’s alternative school system. Importantly, Kingswood did not require its alternative students to receive religious instruction or education, and the school board partnered with Kingswood for financial—not religious—reasons.
In response, the ACLJ’s brief argues that the Establishment Clause does not prohibit all relationships between government and religious organizations, so long as the government remains neutral toward religion. Because the school board was motivated by financial, not religious, reasons, and because religious instruction was not forced on alternative students, the school board remained neutral towards religion. Furthermore, a reasonable observer would understand that the school board contracted with Kingswood for economic reasons, and the partnership cannot be reasonably viewed as an endorsement of religion.
The ACLJ remains hopeful that the Sixth Circuit will reverse the district court and allow Kingswood to continue operating the alternative school program. Regardless, we continue to defend the religious and constitutional liberties of Americans across the country.
The ACLJ helped a mother and her elementary school son who wanted to bring his Bible to school.
In September 2013 the ACLJ was contacted by a mother whose son is a fifth-grader in the Los Angeles School Unified District. Her son was told by his teacher that he could not read his Bible or bring it to school. The mother talked to the teacher and discovered that this policy came from the school principal. The mother then contacted the ACLJ and received important information concerning her son’s rights to freely exercise his religion. Soon after this, the mother set up a meeting with the principal and gave him the ALCJ’s information. After realizing that the school’s policy was unconstitutional, the principal allowed the student to bring his Bible to school and read it outside of class time.
The ACLJ continues to help students and their parents protect their free speech and religious rights in school. This is yet another victory for religious freedom.
KANO — Gunmen believed to be Islamists from Nigeria’s Boko Haram insurgent group killed 42 people, mostly students, in an overnight attack on a secondary school in restive Yobe state, a medical worker and residents said Saturday.
“We received 42 dead bodies of students and other staff of Government Secondary School (in) Mamudo last night. Some of them had gunshot wounds while many of them had burns and ruptured tissues,” Haliru Aliyu of the Potiskum General Hospital told AFP.
Mamudo is some 5 kms from Potiskum, the commercial hub of Yobe State which has been a flashpoint in the Boko Haram insurgency in recent months.
“From accounts of teachers and other students who escaped the attack, the gunmen gathered their victims in a hostel and threw explosives and opened fire, leading to the death of 42,” Aliyu said.
He said security personnel were combing the bushes around the school in search of students who were believed to have escaped with gunshot wounds. “So far six students have been found and are now in the hospital being treated for gunshot wounds,” he added.
A local resident who did not want to be named confirmed the attack.
“It was a gory sight. People who went to the hospital and saw the bodies shed tears. There were 42 bodies, most of them were students. Some of them had parts of their bodies blown off and badly burned while others had gunshot wounds,” he said.
He said the attack was believed to be a reprisal by the Boko Haram Islamists for the killing of 22 sect members during a military raid in the town of Dogon Kuka on Thursday. Nigeria declared a state of emergency in three flashpoint states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe in mid-May as it launched a major offensive to end the insurgency.
Violence linked to the Boko Haram insurgency has left some 3,600 people dead since 2009, including killings by the security forces. Boko Haram which means “western education is evil” has killed hundreds of students in attacks on schools in the tense region in recent months. Meanwile, gunmen suspected to be ethnic Fulani herdsmen invaded a farming village in restive Benue State, burning several houses, police said Saturday, amid reports that at least 20 people died in the violence.
“There was an attack yesterday, around 11:00 am by suspected Fulani cattle rearers at Iyordye Akaahena village in Guma … Many houses were burned,” state police spokesman Daniel Ezeala told AFP.
He said security forces had moved in to quell the violence, the latest to hit central Nigeria in recent months.
Ezeala could not immediately say if anyone died in the attack, but local media said at least 20 people, mostly ethnic Christian Tivs, were killed. — AFP