HADDON HEIGHTS - A civil rights organization has called on a Camden County elementary school to end the practice of students saying "God bless America" after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
The American Civil Liberties Union's New Jersey chapter sent a letter to Glenview Elementary School in the Haddon Heights School District saying that invoking God's blessing as a daily ritual is unconstitutional.
In the letter, ACLU legal director Ed Barocas said, "The school should focus its efforts on academics and the enrichment of children, not the debate over whether to add a religious blessing to the end of the Pledge of Allegiance."
Principal Sam Sassano told News 12 New Jersey that the tradition started after the Sept. 11 attacks and has become part of the school's culture. He said in a letter to parents that the practice is patriotic and does not advance any religious message.
"It's never been officially taught by staff members …but we say the Pledge of Allegiance as a school community in the school yard,” Sassano said. “As younger students heard older students say it, they just picked up on that tradition and it continued."
He says the school will discontinue the practice, but won't prevent its 265 students from saying the phrase.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.