A New Hampshire law requiring that public school students have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day is constitutional, an appeals court has ruled.
The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the New Hampshire Patriot Act’s primary effect is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism. The law – which was enacted in 2002 months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – states that student participation in the Pledge is voluntary and students who choose not to recite it may stand silently or remain seated.
“In reciting the Pledge, students promise fidelity to our flag and our nation, not to any particular God, faith or church,” wrote Chief Judge Sandra Lynch on behalf of the three-judge panel in Freedom From Religion Foundation v. Hanover School District.
The lawsuit was brought by the Freedom from Religion Foundation on behalf of three children who attend the Hanover school district and the Dresden district in New Hampshire. Their parents, who identify themselves as atheist and agnostic, also joined the suit.
The plaintiffs argued the recitation of the Pledge – with its “one nation under God” phrase — made their children “outsiders” to their peers.
Several Religious Right legal groups intervened in the case on behalf of the statute, including TV preacher Pat Robertson’s American Center for Law and Justice.