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Massachusetts: Pledge of Allegiance not religious

Published: Thursday, Sept. 3 2015 6:27 p.m. MDT

Fairmeadow Elementary School students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a school assembly in Palo Alto, Calif., Monday, Nov. 5, 2007. The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools does not discriminate against atheists. (Paul Sakuma, Associated Press) Fairmeadow Elementary School students recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a school assembly in Palo Alto, Calif., Monday, Nov. 5, 2007. The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools does not discriminate against atheists. (Paul Sakuma, Associated Press)

BOSTON — The highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools does not discriminate against atheists.

The Supreme Judicial Court on Friday said the words "under God" in the pledge reflect a patriotic practice, not a religious one.

They added that the pledge is entirely voluntary.

An atheist family from Acton sued in 2010 claiming that the daily recitation of the pledge in classrooms violated their three children's constitutional rights. The family, who are not identified in the suit, said the ruling insinuates that nonbelievers are less patriotic.

A lower court judge last year ruled that "under God" did not violate the school's anti-discrimination policy or state law. The family appealed.

The decision only applies to Massachusetts because the pledge's language is defined by federal law.

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