God Bless America. It’s the name of a patriotic song that is sometimes referred to as America’s unofficial national anthem. It is sung at sporting events. Politicians commonly end speeches with the phrase. Until recently, one New Jersey school district required all school children to repeat the three words at the end of the Pledge of Allegiance. Until just recently, that is.
The Township of Haddon Heights, New Jersey received a letter from the New Jersey Chapter of the ACLU asking the township to stop requiring school children to repeat God bless America at the end of each day’s Pledge of Allegiance. The township decided not to defend the practice in court, making January 5, 2015 the last day schools forced kids to repeat God bless America.
The Director of the American Civil Liberties Union New Jersey Chapter, Ed Barocas said:
“It is improper and unconstitutional for public school officials to have elementary school students invoking god’s blessing.”
The school district claimed the practice, which was instituted after the 9/11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, was rooted in patriotism and not religion. Principal Sam Sassano said,
“We have never viewed this to have any religious ties…at the same time we understand how it could be construed.”
By agreeing to end the practice, and just have the children recite the normal Pledge of Allegiance, the district avoided a legal battle.