BOSTON, May 9 (UPI) -- An atheist Massachusetts couple failed to prove their children had been harmed by the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, the state's highest court ruled Friday.
The couple, identified only as "John and Jane Doe," argued their children's rights were violated by the voluntary recitation of the pledge -- including "Under God" -- in the public schools in the Acton-Boxborough district. But the Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously they failed to make their case, saying they had not proved the children had been subjected to bullying, ostracism or any other punishment or mistreatment for refusing to say the pledge or for keeping quiet while everyone else was saying "Under God."
The couple sued in state court under the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled on the issue.
Chief Justice Roderick Ireland, who wrote the opinion, also said school officials in the district -- which includes two wealthy suburbs northwest of Boston -- do not track students' patriotism, or lack thereof.
"The fact that a school or other public entity operates a voluntary program or offers an activity that offends the religious beliefs of one or more individuals, and leaves them feeling 'stigmatized' or 'excluded' as a result, does not mean that the program or activity necessarily violates equal protection principles,'' Ireland said.
The Does, Acton residents, got legal backing from the American Humanist Society for the lawsuit filed in Middlesex County. Another Acton couple, Daniel and Ingrid Joyce, weighed in on the other side, with support from the Knights of Columbus.