A teenager is joining in on a court battle over the Pledge of Allegiance, opposing an atheist group's attempts at stripping out "under God" from the patriotic recitation.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty
Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, New Jersey, said she's defending her right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in its current form after joining 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," said Jones, who is being represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "If anyone wants to remain silent, that is their right. But it is not their right to silence me."
The teen's parents, Frank and Michele Jones, got involved in the case after learning that the American Humanist Association was challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge. They will now join the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization, in fighting against attempts to remove it from public schools.
As TheBlaze previously reported, the American Humanist Association is embracing a new strategy by using state constitutions instead of the First Amendment to go after the Pledge of Allegiance.
The lawsuit that Jones and her family joined is a legal battle that the atheist group waged against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in Aberdeen, New Jersey, last April on behalf of parents who wish to remain anonymous, the USA Today reported at the time.
The American Humanist Association and the unnamed family are arguing that mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance constitutes discrimination against atheists under the New Jersey constitution.
“It’s not the place of state governments to take a position on god-belief,” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, told Religion News Service earlier this year. “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.”
The school district’s lawyer, though, said that officials are merely following state law, which requires daily recitation of the pledge. While the district offers the recitation in its seven elementary, middle and high schools, students are not required to participate.
But the American Humanist Association believes that “under God” violates the equal protection clause of New Jersey’s constitution. The lawsuit also questions the history surrounding the recitation — a controversial developmental timeline that TheBlaze has covered in detail.
Frank and Michele Jones (left) and their family (The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)
In May, the organization lost a similar battle it waged in Massachusetts when the Supreme Judicial Court in the state rejected a family’s lawsuit claiming that the recitation violates secular students’ rights.
Kristina Arriaga, executive director of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, believes that atheists' arguments against the Pledge are faulty and will lead to a similar loss in New Jersey.
"The Pledge is not a religious creed or a prayer. It is a statement of our nation’s political philosophy that rights come not from the state but from something higher — as our Declaration of Independence puts it, 'Nature’s God,'" she said in a press release. "We are confident that the court will uphold the right to say the Pledge in its entirety."