WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- "I pledge allegiance to the flag..." are words most schoolchildren learn early on, but a recent lawsuit in the New Jersey schools has prompted reaction in Westchester.
"Very few kids say the Pledge of Allegiance in middle or high school," Hastings High School student Marquis Howell said. "I think the elementary school kids feel they have to join in because all the children say it, but you can choose to say it or not."
A New Jersey family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent, seeking to have the phrase "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that students recite every day.
"The schools should not make children say 'under God' because some families don't want it included," Justin Bajan said. "It isn't a problem here (in Hastings) because we have a choice not to say the Pledge."
The American Humanist Association claims that the practice of acknowledging God in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheists, in violation of New Jersey's constitution.
Ralph Pollard of Tarrytown said the lawsuit is unnecessary because children have the option of not reciting the Pledge.
"I guess people are hypersensitive in this country," Pollard said. "Parents should teach their kids some common sense. If you don't want to say 'under God,' don't say it. Should the words be taken out of the Pledge? Maybe, but a lawsuit. It's frivolous and a waste of money that could be spent on education."
Ray Mosca of White Plains, who was filling his gas tank in Greenburgh, said he said the Pledge all through school and thinks the lawsuit is part of a bigger problem.
"Most kids say the Pledge (early on) without really understanding what allegiance, republic, under God or liberty mean, so it is an innocent way to begin the day in school," Mosca said. "I guess the use of God bothers some people, but to lawsuits are really too much."