Atheists Set to Fight Pledge of Allegiance Laws

Atheists Set to Fight Pledge of Allegiance Laws

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Utah atheists may file suit against the state over a 3-year-old law requiring elementary school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The group is also preparing to fight a proposed legislative bill that would require secondary school students to recite the pledge.

Atheists object to the phrase "one nation under God," inserted into the pledge in 1954.

Utah school children may opt out of the recitation with a letter from their parents. But that option amounts to social stigmatization, said Mike Rivers, the Utah director of American Atheists.

"The school might as well take a scarlet A and put it on them," Rivers said. The pledge "ties patriotism to religion, and I don't believe in that."

Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, is sponsoring a bill this session that would require junior high and high school students to say the pledge at least once a week.

"I'm totally amazed that anyone in this country would be opposed to having our American kids say the Pledge of Allegiance," he said. "Like it or not, this is a Christian country."

Charles Johnson, president of Utah Atheists, calls Buttars' bill pointless.

"It seems to be a case of the majority simply wanting to show the remainder of us that they ... reject us and our thinking."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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