(Boston, Masachusetts, September 4, 2013) Expressing solidarity with a new church-state legal strategy, the Boston Coalition of Reason (Boston CoR) rallied in front of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court this morning as oral arguments were heard in Doe v. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. The case is the result of a lawsuit filed by an anonymous Massachusetts family and litigated by the Appignani Humanist Legal Center of the American Humanist Association.
The plaintiffs argue that the teacher-led recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, when done with the words "under God," violate the rights of nontheistic children to equal protection under the law and also violate the Massachusetts Equal Rights Amendment's provision against religious discrimination. This is a new strategy regarding the Pledge, which in the past has been opposed only in federal courts and only on grounds of the first and fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The rally, which began at 8:00 and ended at 10:30 AM, featured Boston CoR Coordinator and Harvard Humanist Chaplain Greg Epstein, former minister and newly appointed head of the Humanist Community Project Teresa MacBain, Secular Coalition for America Director of Federal and State Government Affairs Kelly Damerow, church-state separation activist Ellery Schempp and rally organizer Zachary Bos.
Also on hand after the oral arguments were heard were the litigating attorney David Niose and American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. Rally participants included leaders and members of Atheists of Greater Lowell, Boston Atheists, Concord Area Humanists, Ethical Society of Boston, Greater Boston Humanists, Worcester Humanists and other groups in Boston CoR. Steve Ahlquist and others from Humanists of Rhode Island were also present.
Bos summed it up this way: "We rallied with our secular pins and buttons and our freethought signs and banners; we spoke with reporters and passersby; and we got to know each other a little better while we waited for the court session to conclude."
After oral arguments were heard in the courthouse, news media covered the rally outside–including the local ABC affiliate as well as both national Fox News and its Boston affiliate. They interviewed Niose, Speckhardt, Epstein, MacBain, and Bos. Niose expressed his view that oral arguments had gone well.
Speaking later about the rally, MacBain declared, "I think it was a big success." The crowd of thirty some people "represented the movement with class. I overheard several lawyers comment on how 'nice' we were." There were no demonstrators from the opposing side.
The media has noted that the Court won't likely decide the case for several months. But those wishing to read the court briefs can find them at: http://www.ma-appellatecourts.org/search_number.php?dno=SJC-11317 .
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Lawsuit: Pledge of Allegiance's under God discriminatory (w/video)
A lawyer for an atheist family has asked Massachusetts' highest court to ban the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in state public schools.
Massachusetts Supreme Court to hear Pledge of Allegiance in schools case