Last week, the First Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in New Hampshire's public schools. In 2007, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of two parents — proclaiming to be atheist and agnostic — whose three children were attending public school.
The group challenged the New Hampshire School Patriot Act which requires that the state's public schools authorize a period during the school day for students to voluntarily participate in the recitation of the national pledge. The act allows students who choose not to participate to stand silently or remain seated and to respect the rights of those pupils electing to participate. FFRF argues that the schools' pledge practices are religious because the pledge itself is a religious exercise in that it uses the phrase "under God."
Chief Judge Sandra Lea Lynch wrote in the opinion that by design, the primary effect of the New Hampshire Act is not the advancement of religion, but the advancement of patriotism. Lynch added, "It takes more than the presence of words with religious content to have the effect of advancing religion, let alone to do so as a primary effect. The Pledge and the phrase "under God" are not themselves prayers, nor are they readings from or recitations of a sacred text of a religion. Here, the words "under God" appear in a pledge to a flag — itself a secular exercise, accompanied by no other religious language or symbolism." [ChristianPost.com, Boston.com FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing]