A Pennsylvania school stopped saying “God Bless America” over the loudspeaker after a parent complained and an organization comprised of atheists and agnostics got involved.
Sabold Elementary School in Springfield, Pa., had a custom of allowing users of the loudspeaker to say “God Bless America” after the morning Pledge of Allegiance.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, acting on a complaint from a parent, wrote the superintendent March 25 and argued the action was unconstitutional.
“The repeated recitation of a religious message in the school setting violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prohibits public schools from advancing, supporting or promoting religion,” FFRF attorney Christopher Line wrote. “‘God Bless America’ is a prayer. The song that the phrase originates from begins, ‘As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer.’ A prayer hosted by a publicly supported school does not pass constitutional muster.”
An FFRF press release said saying the phrase “sends a message to its students that the school is endorsing and compelling belief in God.”
The school ended the practice.
“After the school district’s receipt of your letter, Sabold Elementary School has ceased its practice of announcing the slogan ‘God Bless America’ over the loudspeaker immediately following the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance,” Mark Sereni, an attorney for the school district, wrote FFRF April 17. “None of the schools in the school district currently engage in this practice.”
Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation says the Pledge itself is unconstitutional due to its incorporation of “under God.”
“Unfortunately, attempts to litigate this addition into the pledge, which equates piety with patriotism, have been unsuccessful,” FFRF said.
FFRF calls itself an organization of “atheists, agnostics and skeptics of any pedigree” that promotes the complete separation of church and state.
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: John Silliman/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.