Press Release

VICTORY: ‘Under God’ in Pledge of Allegiance Upheld Unanimously by Massachusetts’ Highest Court Becket Fund secures fourth victory preserving the Pledge

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today Massachusetts’ highest court, the Supreme Judicial Court, unanimously rejected the latest lawsuit challenging the words “ under God ” in the Pledge of Allegiance, ensuring that Massachusetts schoolchildren may continue reciting the Pledge in full each morning. The American Humanist Association, an atheist advocacy group, sought to overturn the Pledge in the lawsuit, claiming that the words “under God” were unconstitutional. Local Massachusetts schoolchildren, their parents, and the Knights of Columbus intervened in the lawsuit to defend the Pledge.

“Today the Court affirmed what should have been obvious—‘God’ is not a dirty word,” said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at Becket, who argued the case before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. “And it isn’t discriminatory either. The words ‘under God’ are a reminder to our children that government doesn’t give us our rights and it can’t take them away either. Preserving the Pledge protects the rights of every American.”

This is Becket’s fourth win in court protecting “under God” from attack. Last year, after Middlesex Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty ruled in favor of the Pledge, the American Humanist Association appealed her decision to Massachusetts’ highest court. Oral arguments were held on September 4, 2013.

The unanimous Court rejected the American Humanist Association’s argument that recitation of the Pledge discriminates against atheist schoolchildren. Stating that recitation of the Pledge is completely optional, the Court ruled that no child must be silenced from reaffirming timeless American ideals because others disagree. Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, writing for the unanimous court, stated “Here there is no discriminatory classification for purposes of art. 106 — no differing treatment of any class or classes of students based on their sex, race, color, creed, or national origin. All students are treated alike.”

“For those who have been attacking the Pledge we would offer this: our system protects their right to remain silent, but it doesn’t give them a right to silence others.” Rassbach added.

UPDATE:  The following statement can be attributed to Dan and Ingrid Joyce of Acton, Massachusetts, who along with their children, are parties in the case:

“We are very happy with the Court’s decision today. We believe that the Pledge represents all Americans and we think the Court’s decision respects the wonderful diversity we have in our society.

We are proud of the ideals that the Pledge espouses, and we hope to continue contributing to our community in ways that will help make this nation the country that our Founders envisioned: One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The following statement can be attributed to Supreme Knight Carl Anderson:

“At Gettysburg, President Lincoln reminded us that we were a ‘nation, under God.’ He followed in a distinguished tradition going back to the Declaration of Independence — a tradition that has been enshrined in the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, and that inspired that son of Massachusetts, President John F. Kennedy, when he said in his inaugural address: ‘our rights come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.’ We applaud the court’s decision on this foundational principle of our country.”

Becket is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions—from Anglicans to Zoroastrians. For 18 years its attorneys have been recognized as experts in the field of church-state law. Becket recently won a 9-0 victory in Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.” For more information, or to arrange an interview with one of the attorneys, please contact Melinda Skea at or call 202.349.7224.