By Jennifer C. Braceras, Boston Herald
Acton, Mass., doesn’t usually jump to mind when we think of hotbeds of “political correctness.” In fact, Acton probably wouldn’t make most people’s top 10 list.
This morning, Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty is scheduled to hear arguments in Doe vs. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District. The case, brought by an Acton family, asks the court to order Acton schools to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
The plaintiffs, who call themselves the “Does” to protect their identity, are atheists — albeit not particularly courageous ones, as they attempt to remain anonymous in their lack of belief.
Like the moonbats from Brookline, who sought to ban the recitation of the Pledge last September, and the members of the Arlington School Board who resisted reinstating the Pledge for fear of hurt feelings, the Does believe that the mere mention of God irreparably damages young hearts and minds.
Interestingly, the Does do not base their legal claim (as others before them have tried) on the First Amendment’s prohibition on state establishment of religion — what people colloquially call the “separation of church and state.”
Perhaps this is because they would be unlikely to convince a judge — even a Massachusetts judge — that the term “under God” in the Pledge establishes an official state religion.
The reference to God in the Pledge is meant to recognize the faith of our founders and their belief that all human beings are born with certain inalienable rights — rights, granted by God, and articulated in the Declaration of Independence, that can neither be given nor taken away by government. The phrase “one nation, under God” is, therefore, an expression of political philosophy and a nod to our history, not a religious oath.
Thus, instead of citing the “establishment clause,” the Does challenge the Pledge on the basis of the Massachusetts Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection.” In other words, they claim that Acton schools discriminate against atheist children when they say the Pledge.
To be clear, the Does do not claim that Acton schools deny children the right to remain silent during the Pledge or that they punish kids who do not participate. The Does claim only that the schools discriminate against atheist children by participating in a Pledge that makes them feel “marginalized.”
Call it the doctrine of hurt feelings: where discrimination is defined by subjective experiences, not objective facts. And where courts are asked to find constitutional violations, in the absence of state coercion or force, any time a person feels excluded by community rituals, symbols or norms.
The Doe case is only the most recent example of the abuse of our legal system by plaintiffs who seek to cleanse society of anything that might offend.