A conservative legal firm is claiming victory after an atheist activist group announced that it will not appeal a recent New Jersey trial court decision in favor of the presence of "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A press contact at the American Humanist Association, the atheist group at the center of the legal battle, confirmed to TheBlaze on Monday that its legal arm will not be appealing the case.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a conservative legal firm, also put out a press release earlier in the day claiming victory and announcing that the atheist group had "thrown in the towel" on the case.
"The decision to give up the case marks the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty’s fifth victory in a row defending the words 'one nation under God,'" read the press release.
Samantha Jones (right) along with her parents and siblings (The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty)
The conclusion of the case means that the legal firm successfully represented New Jersey high school student Samantha Jones in her quest to defend the Pledge after atheists sued in state court in an effort to strip "God" from the traditional wording.
"I’m so grateful to know that I will be able to continue reciting the pledge in peace," Jones said in a statement. "Ever since I was little, I’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance because it sums up the values that make our country great."
The American Humanist Association's decision not to appeal the ruling comes two months after a New Jersey judge threw out the group's lawsuit that argued that “under God” is a violation of the state’s constitution.
State Superior Court Judge David Bauman had already expressed doubts about the atheist-led lawsuit during oral arguments back in November, noting that he saw no evidence of bullying or mistreatment of atheists as a result of “under God,” according to Fox News.
The court battle started in February 2014 when an unnamed family in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in Aberdeen, New Jersey, arguing through representation by the American Humanist Association that mentioning God in the Pledge of Allegiance constituted discrimination against nonbelievers, violating the equal protection clause of New Jersey’s constitution.
The lawsuit also questioned the history surrounding the recitation — a controversial developmental time-line that TheBlaze has covered in detail.
“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 at the time. “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.”
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The school district’s lawyer had argued, though, that officials have merely been 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.
The court battle only intensified last year when Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, New Jersey, joined her family in officially filing a response to the American Humanist Association lawsuit, defending the presence of “under God” in the Pledge.
This is the second loss that the American Humanist Associated has suffered after shifting gears to rely on state constitutions.
Front page image via Shutterstock.com.