By Samantha Jones
Teen fighting for right to recite ‘under God’ in Pledge
When I heard about a group of atheists suing to silence every New Jersey school kid who wished to say the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety, including the words “under God,” I knew I had to do something.
That’s why my family and I decided to defend the Pledge in court. We believe in doing so we are not only standing for the Pledge but also protecting our freedoms as Americans, and our ability to celebrate those freedoms everywhere including in school. And the judge just agreed with us. He dismissed the American Humanist Association’s lawsuit because our legal system doesn’t force kids into silence just because some others take offense at timeless American values.
Judging by what is being said by the atheists who are suing, you probably imagine that students in New Jersey are obligated to say the Pledge, even if they don’t want to. But that’s not true. In New Jersey, as in every other state, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is entirely optional. No one has to participate. In fact, if a student declines to participate, he or she is even allowed to remain seated—students don’t have to stand up, salute the flag, or say anything.
I defend the right of kids to sit out the Pledge. In fact, I am proud to live in a country that is so respectful of everyone’s beliefs. We are a diverse country and we celebrate that diversity in many ways.
The same laws that protect the atheists’ world view, protect mine. I will not let them silence me.
However, the same laws that protect the atheists’ world view, protect mine. I will not let them silence me. I’ve been reciting the Pledge since preschool, and to me, the phrase “one nation under God” sums up the history and values that have made our country great. “Under God” acknowledges that our rights don’t come from the government but from a higher power. The government cannot be allowed to take away the basic human rights it did not create.
In history class I have learned that oppressive governments like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union said that people only have rights given by the state. Under those regimes, every person lived at the mercy of the state. The state could even declare some people “unpersons” without any rights at all. But the United States has always been very different.
American history is filled with references to “God.” When Martin Luther King Jr. called on Americans to heal the pains of segregation, he did so by emphasizing that all men are “created equal:”
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
Created equal—everyone has equal rights because those rights come from a power above and beyond the state. The state cannot segregate people
God created equal.
If the American Humanist Association wants to eliminate every mention of “God,” teachers would have to remain silent about the values held by the American Revolutionaries, the Constitution, and leaders in the civil rights movement. And why would they advocate that kind of censorship anyway? I think it’s empowering to know that, no matter what happens, I have some rights the government can never take away.
By suing to censor ideas they don’t like in the classroom, the American Humanist Association moved from dissent to hostile bullying. It is an honor to have the opportunity to stand up to those bullies, and I’m delighted that a court has stood up for what’s right. I will continue to work with our attorneys at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to make sure school children across New Jersey are free to say the Pledge of Allegiance in full.
Samantha Jones is a high school senior at Highland Regional High School.