High school student in NJ wins case to keep 'under God' in Pledge of Allegiance
A case filed by the American Humanist Association in New Jersey has gone down in flames, defeated by a high school student named Samantha Jones, backed by lawyers from the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion, which acted in support. Fox News explains what happened:
The legal battle first began when an unnamed New Jersey family from Monmouth County, identified in court papers as John and Jane Doe and their child, sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in February 2014, alleging the phrase "under God" in the pledge is discriminatory. The case was filed by the American Humanist Association, which claimed the recitation of the pledge violates Article 1 of the state's constitution. (snip)
Jones, who was attending another school, fought back, telling 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."
She described America as a country of many beliefs and claimed all of those beliefs – including those of atheists – are protected by "one nation under God." (snip)
State Superior Court Judge David Bauman said during arguments in November that there wasn't any evidence the student in question had been "bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated." But Bauman also noted during his questioning of district attorney David Rubin that district policy requires parents whose children don't say the pledge to furnish an explanation in writing.
At the time, Rubin said he wasn't aware of any cases in which parents had refused to supply an explanation and didn't know what the ramifications would be if they didn't. He accused the plaintiffs of filing a lawsuit claiming the pledge violates laws against the official establishment of religion "masquerading as an equal protection case."
School district officials had claimed they're simply following a state law requiring schools to have a daily recitation of the pledge. In a court filing, the district wrote that the plaintiffs can't claim a violation of equal protection laws because all students are treated equally by not having to recite the pledge.
The U.K. Daily Mail notes:
In a statement released Friday, she [Samantha] said: 'I'm so grateful the court decided that kids like me shouldn't be silenced just because some people object to timeless American values.'
'Ever since I was little, I've recited the Pledge of Allegiance because it sums up the values that make our country great. 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.'
Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty added: 'The message today is loud and clear: ''God'' is not a dirty word. The Pledge of Allegiance isn't a prayer, and reciting it doesn't magically create an official state religion.'
The atheist left will not give up, of course. If this case is not appealed, other cases will be filed, in search of sympathetic judges. Atheists abhor the notion that belief in God is normative.