Education

Elementary School Can’t Say ‘God Bless America’ Following ACLU Complaint

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Blake Neff Reporter
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A New Jersey school that opened each day reciting the phrase “God bless America,” is ending the practice after receiving a lawsuit threat from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Students at Glenview Elementary School in the Philadelphia suburb of Haddon Heights have said “God bless America” following the Pledge of Allegiance since 2001, when two kindergarten teachers began the practice to honor 9/11 first responders.

Principal Sam Sassano says the tradition was never codified, or required of any students, but was simply a longstanding tradition. He also told parents in a letter that he didn’t view the phrase as religious.

“It has been our view that the practice is fundamentally patriotic in nature and does not invoke or advance any religious message, despite the specific reference to God’s blessing,” he said, according to the Courier-Post.

But the ACLU says the practice was a flagrant violation of the First Amendment.

“The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from not only favoring one religion over another, but also from promoting religion over non-religion,” says the letter written by Ed Barocas, ACLU of New Jersey’s legal director. “The greatest care must be taken to avoid the appearance of governmental endorsement in schools, especially elementary schools, given the impressionable age of the children under the school’s care and authority.”

Rather than chance a costly lawsuit, the Haddon Heights School District gave in immediately, and Sassano told parents the practice was discontinued.

As far as legal considerations go, in the past, the Supreme Court has repeatedly struck down anything resembling an officially-sanctioned prayer in public schools.

Despite the district’s decision, though, Sassano emphasized that students could still say “God bless America” of their own volition and the school would do nothing to prevent them.

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Tags : new jersey
Blake Neff