Back in November, we told you the story of a New Jersey teen who was fighting to keep the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance after an atheist-led lawsuit deemed the words unconstitutional, but we're happy to report that the judge on the case threw out the lawsuit, handing the victory to the Christian teen.
Samantha Jones and her family are beyond happy this week as they celebrate a milestone move by the New Jersey court to throw out a request filed by an anonymous atheist couple in association with the American Humanist Association. The couple, only identified as John and Jane Doe in court papers, first sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District last February, saying that the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance were discriminatory.
"I'm so grateful the court decided that kids like me shouldn't be silenced just because some people object to timeless American values," Jones said in a statement after the court decision was made.
"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 Jones family was represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, with assistance from the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion. But it was the deputy general counsel for the Becket Fund group, Eric Rassbach, who best wrapped up the sentiment: "The message today is loud and clear: 'God' is not a dirty word."
On the prosecution's side, the American Humanist Association's attorney, David Niose, claimed that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" included makes atheist children feel like "second-class citizens." Niose alleged that the schools were forcing children to say these words, which was the main point that caused the judge to throw out the case.
While the school district does not require children to say the pledge, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling in 1943, the district does require children who refuse to say the pledge to provide a note from their parents explaining why. District attorney David Rubin says that he was not aware of any cases in which parents refused to supply that explanation.
Ultimately, the judge threw out the case because there was no violation. The school provided the pledge but did not require any of the children to recite it, and there was no evidence of any students being "bullied, ostracized or in any way mistreated" when they chose not to participate in the recital. So it was ruled that all children are being treated equally because no one is required to do anything, and there is no ground for a discrimination claim.
"I don't think that it's as much about religion as it is about our rights. Everyone has the right to remain silent but they don't have the right to silence everybody else," Samantha said back in November.