One New Jersey high school will be keeping “one nation under God” in their morning Pledge of Allegiance after a legal battle which sought to strike the phrase from the oath.
When an unidentified New Jersey family sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in February 2014, they claimed the the phrase “under God” was discriminatory. The American Humanist Association took the case and told the court that the pledge violated Article 1 of the state’s constitution.
However, when one high school senior caught wind of this, she and her family decided to fight back.
Samantha Jones, senior at Highland Regional High School, told Fox News last November that the phrase “acknowledges that our rights don’t come from the government but from a higher power, so they can’t take away the rights.”
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“I don’t like that it’s as much about religion as about our rights. Everyone has the right to remain silent but they don’t have the right to silence everybody else,” she said.
David Niose, an attorney for the American Humanist Association, argued that public schools should not “engage in an exercise that tells students that patriotism is tied to a belief in God,” saying, “Such a daily exercise portrays atheists and humanist children as second-class citizens, and certainly contributes to anti-atheist prejudices.”
Represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Jones and her family testified against the prosecution, ultimately declaring a victory to keep the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety.
“I’m so grateful the court decided that kids like me shouldn’t be silenced just because some people object to timeless American values,” she said in a statement after winning the case.
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“Ever since I was little, I’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance because it sums up the values that make our country great,” she continued. “The phrase ‘under God’ protects all Americans -- including atheists -- because it reminds the government that it can’t take away basic human rights because it didn’t create them.”
"The message today is loud and clear: "God" is not a dirty word," said Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "The Pledge of Allegiance isn't a prayer, and reciting it doesn't magically create an official state religion."
The Pledge of Allegiance was first adopted by Congress in 1942. It was not until 1954, however, was the phrase “under God” added to the oath. The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that school children could not be forced to recite the pledge.