School Will Stop Saying “God Bless America” After Pledge

 

Photo Credits: SlidePlayer

Pennsylvania - Sabold Elementary School in Springfield used to recite the words "God Bless America" over the loudspeaker after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Two months ago, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) wrote a letter to the head of the Springfield School District calling for the phrase “God Bless America” to be removed from the announcements.

“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 Legal Fellow Chris Line wrote to Superintendent Anthony Barber. “‘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.”

And to broadcast such a prayer each morning in school is highly exclusionary, FFRF pointed out. When a public school regularly proclaims, “God Bless America,” it sends a message to its students that the school is endorsing and compelling belief in God. This excludes the 38 percent of Americans born after 1987 — i.e., the district’s students — who are not religious.

An attorney for the District wrote back a few weeks later saying the practice had ended. “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. None of the schools in the School District currently engages in this practice.”

A statement from Springfield School District read, in part, "To be clear, the District has not altered the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance and has not prohibited students from deciding on their own, as their own form of self-expression, whether or not to state the words, 'God Bless America' (or any other appropriate form of self-expression) upon completing the Pledge of Allegiance.

We understand that this is an important topic for many of our constituents; however, please understand that the District does not make the law. We follow it.”

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