(NECN: Scot Yount, Boston) – The pledge of allegiance is the focus of a new controversy. A family is asking Massachusetts' high court to ban the daily practice of reciting the pledge in public schools. At issue are the words "under God."
"It is not a position government should put anyone in, it is discrimination," said Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanists Association.
The state's highest court heard the argument of an atheist Acton couple and their three children that the words "under God" should be struck from the Pledge of Allegiance in Massachusetts public schools.
"That under god language was added during the 1950s during the McCarthy era, and it is that language makes the pledge invidious towards atheists and humanists it really defines them as something less than true patriots and that's not right," said David Niose, Attorney for the unnamed plaintiffs.
"You can choose to say one part, all parts or no parts and you don't have to explain why," said Eric Rassbach, who represents an intervener family and the Knights of Columbus.
Surrogates for the plaintiffs argue that just because kids aren't required to say the pledge doesn't solve the problem.
"Either they stand up, and repeat something that goes against what they believe, and their family believes, or they sit down and face ostracization for doing, for opposing, what everyone else believes," said Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association.
The defendants, the Acton Boxborough public school system and a host of other pro-pledge organizations have signed on to argue the case.
"We believe that the Pledge of Allegiance should not be banned, merely because someone who is not even required to recite it feels offended," said Andrew Beckwith, VP of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
"The Pledge of Allegiance, particularly the "Under God" which is contention here, is designed to unite Americans, it is a reflection of the founding fathers core philosophy that we are all endowed by our creator, with certain inalienable rights," Beckwith said.
"If Massachusetts or the school district were forcing somebody to do this I would be on the other side of this case because people cannot be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance against their will," said Eric Rassbach, who represents an intervener family and the Knights of Columbus.
"It really defines patriotism in a way that portrays atheists and humanists as second class citizens," Niose said.