Acton, Mass., doesn’t usually jump to mind when we think of hotbeds of “political correctness.”
In fact, Acton probably wouldn’t make most people’s top 10 list.
This morning, Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Jane Haggerty is scheduled to hear arguments in Doe vs. Acton-Boxborough Regional School District.
The case, brought by an Acton family, asks the court to order Acton schools to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
The plaintiffs, who call themselves the “Does” to protect their identity, are atheists — albeit not particularly courageous ones, as they attempt to remain anonymous in their lack of belief.
Like the moonbats from Brookline, who sought to ban the recitation of the Pledge last September, and the members of the Arlington School Board who resisted reinstating the Pledge for fear of hurt feelings, plaintiffs in the Doe case believe that the mere mention of God irreparably damages young hearts and minds.
Interestingly, plaintiffs do not base their legal claim (as others before them have tried) on the First Amendment’s prohibition on state establishment of religion — what people colloquially call the “separation of church and state.”
Perhaps this is because they would be unlikely to convince a judge — even a Massachusetts judge — that the term “under God” in the Pledge establishes an official state religion.
The reference to God in the Pledge is meant to recognize the faith of our founders and their belief that all human beings are born with certain inalienable rights — rights, granted by God, and articulated in the Declaration of Independence, that can neither be given nor taken away by government.
The phrase “one nation, under God” is, therefore, an expression of political philosophy and a nod to our history, not a religious oath.
Thus, instead of citing the “establishment clause,” plaintiffs challenges the Pledge on the basis of the Massachusetts Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection.” In other words, they claim that Acton schools discriminate against atheist children by merely exposing them to the Pledge.
To be clear, the Doe plaintiffs do not claim that Acton schools deny children the right to remain silent during the Pledge or that they punish kids who do not participate. They claim only that the schools discriminate against atheist children because the recitation of the Pledge makes them feel “marginalized.”
Call it “the doctrine of hurt feelings”: where discrimination is defined by subjective experiences, not objective facts. And where courts are asked to find constitutional violations, in the absence of state coercion or force, any time a person feels excluded by community rituals, symbols or norms.
The Doe case is only the most recent example of the abuse of our legal system by plaintiffs who seek to cleanse society of anything that might offend.
In January, a California doctor of the Sikh faith sued Jay Leno, claiming that the comedian hurt his feelings by displaying a picture of an enormous Sikh temple and describing it as Mitt Romney’s summer home. Like the Acton family, the California plaintiff claims discrimination.
Closer to home, a Cambridge resident recently filed a lawsuit claiming that the state seal, depicting a proud Native American under a sword, is offensive to native peoples. To compensate for the mental anguish caused by the emblem, the Cambridge activist seeks — wait for it — $24 million! Nothing like $24 million to heal hurt feelings.
What all of these litigants fail to comprehend is that, although all Americans are guaranteed equal protection of the law, there is no fundamental right not to have your feelings hurt.
For that, we should all thank God.
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