Before the 1950s, the words "under God" were not in the Pledge. The Federal government added those two words in 1954.
The lawsuit, according to the AHA, is the first of its kind, which seeks equal rights for humanists/atheists. The suit states that the words "under God" discriminates and violates the Massachusetts state Constitution and the state statue, which prohibit discrimination based on religion.
"No child should go to school every day, from kindergarten to grade twelve, to be faced with an exercise that defines patriotism according to religious belief," said the plaintiffs' attorney David Niose, who is also AHA president. "If conducting a daily classroom exercise that marginalizes one religious group while exalting another does not violate basic principles of equal rights and nondiscrimination, then I don't know what does."
The lawsuit does not challenge the federal, but says that states have a right and duty to protect religious minorities from feeling marginalized with exclusive language.
"If the federal government decides to write a discriminatory Pledge, the Massachusetts Constitution nevertheless protects children in the Commonwealth from the discrimination that would occur from daily recitation of the Pledge in classrooms," Niose said.
According to Noise, to recite the Pledge every day, with the words "under God" is not a harmless ceremony, but an attempt to indoctrinate children.
"The flag-salute is how we define patriotism for children on a daily basis," he said. "When we define patriotism with a religious truth claim –that the nation is in fact under a god– we define nonbelievers as less patriotic."