A high school senior is joining a court battle against an atheist group’s attempt to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, New Jersey, has joined her family in officially filing a response to the American Humanist Association’s ongoing lawsuit over the public proclamation.
“When I stand up, put my hand over my heart and say the Pledge of Allegiance, I am recognizing that my rights come from God, not from the government,” Jones said.
“If anyone wants to remain silent, that is their right. But it is not their right to silence me,” Jones added.
Jones’ parents, Frank and Michele Jones, got involved in the case after learning that the American Humanist Association was challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge. The family is joining the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, in fighting against attempts to remove it from public schools.
As The Blaze reports, the lawsuit that the Jones have now joined reaches back to last April, when the American Humanist Society and an unnamed family waged a legal battle against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. The lawsuit claimed that mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes discrimination against atheists under the New Jersey constitution.
This approach—fighting the use of the Pledge of Allegiance by referencing state constitutions—marks a departure from previous strategies, which focused on the First Amendment as grounds for fighting against the Pledge of Allegiance.
The American Humanist Association believes that “under God” violates the equal protection clause of New Jersey’s constitution; their lawsuit also questions the history surrounding the recitation of the pledge.
“The current pledge practice marginalizes atheist and humanist kids as something less than ideal patriots, merely because they don’t believe the nation is under God,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.
The school district’s lawyer maintains that officials are merely following state law, which requires daily recitation of the pledge. While the district offers recitation of the pledge in its schools, students are not required to participate.