ACLU threat ends ‘God bless America’ tradition at NJ school
The tradition of saying "God Bless America" after the Pledge of Allegiance at a South Jersey school is being challenged by the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU.
Two kindergarten teachers began adding the phrase shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as a way to show respect to first responders and the victims at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on board Flight 93.
"It just became sort of a habit," principal Sam Sassano, told the Courier Post. "Now it's part of the culture here."
According to a letter Sassano sent to parents, the ACLU sent the school a letter calling the tradition "unconstitutional" because it promotes a religious belief over non-religious beliefs "especially with young, impressionable children."
Sassano wrote that the practice is unique to Glenview and said the district's view has been "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."
However,Sassano said the school will look into other ways to remember 9/11 to avoid a potentially expensive court battle. Students may continue the practice on their own, he said.
ACLU-NJ legal director Ed Barocas told the Courier-Post Monday the issue was one of context: "This was not students' speech, this was a daily recitation at an official school assembly led by the school officials."
According to PhillyVoice.com, Barocas suggested other ways of honoring 9/11 responders.
"While the phrase has patriotic overtones, that doesn't negate the phrase's fundamentally religious nature of invoking God's blessing," Barocas said, according to that report. "There are so many other ways, such as 'united we stand' to express patriotism and love of our country."