A federal court in New Hampshire recently ruled that the State’s law requiring school districts to set aside time for students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (the “Pledge”) in schools does not violate several clauses contained in the U.S. Constitution, most notably the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. Following the events of September 11th, the New Hampshire legislature enacted the law at issue, which contains a provision requiring that student participation in reciting the Pledge is to be voluntary.
The court concluded that the law does not violate the Establishment Clause because the law (1) has a secular legislative purpose, having been enacted for patriotic — rather than religious — reasons; (2) is not coercive because student participation is voluntary and because the Pledge is not a prayer; and (3) does not encourage excessive governmental entanglement with religion. The court rejected the parents’ Free Exercise claims, ruling the children in question “have not been compelled to perform or to refrain from performing any act, and they have not been compelled to affirm or disavow any belief.” Accordingly, the court reasoned, the rights of the students’ parents to instruct their children in their views on religion had not been violated. You can access the full text of the opinion by clicking here.