Humanist Group Defends California Student Objecting to 'Under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance


(Victorville, CA, Oct. 6, 2015)—The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center sent a letter to officials at Victor Valley Union H.S. District in Victorville, California, on behalf of a parent and student, who was denied his First Amendment right to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance.


The student, a seventh grader at Cobalt Institute of Math and Science, objects to the Pledge of Allegiance for personal and religious reasons, including the phrase “under God.” When he attempted to sit during the Pledge exercise, his teacher told him that he was required to stand. The student’s mother informed the teacher that her son was exercising his rights, but the teacher insisted the student stand and referred the mother to the school principal. The principal also demanded that the student stand during the Pledge, even if he stood with his back to the flag.


“Public school students’ freedom of speech includes the right of nonparticipation in the Pledge,” said David Niose, legal director of the American Humanist Association, in reference to the 1943 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette. “Teachers should respect these students for thinking critically, not threaten to punish them for exercising their rights.”


The letter demands that the school district inform students and teachers that students may sit during the Pledge. The letter also demands that teachers be instructed not to persuade students against remaining seated during the Pledge or characterize nonparticipation in the Pledge as wrongful and that they must not discipline students who do so.


The American Humanist Association provides resources for students who sit out the Pledge on its website, part of its national campaign to educate Americans about the origins of the “under God” wording the Pledge, added in 1954 during the McCarthy Era, and to restore the Pledge to its original, inclusive wording.


A copy of the letter can be found here.



Merrill Miller, 202-238-9088 ext. 105,

David Niose, 202-238-9088 ext. 119,



Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other non-religious Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming philosophy of humanism, which—without beliefs in any gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.