Press Release

High School Student Defeats Atheist Activists: Pledge of Allegiance can stay in N.J. Schools Atheist activist group doesn’t appeal decision to keep “Under God”

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

Additional Information

Washington, D.C. – The atheist activist group American Humanist Association has thrown in the towel, deciding not to appeal New Jersey high school student Samantha Jonesvictory in state trial court protecting the Pledge of Allegiance. The decision to give up the case marks Becket‘s fifth victory in a row defending the words “one nation under God.”

“I’m so grateful to know that I will be able to continue reciting the Pledge in peace,” said Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Blackwood, N.J. “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.”

This is the second time in two years that a state court has stopped the American Humanist Association from outlawing the federal Pledge. Their first state-level suit, raising identical claims, was  unanimously rejected  by Massachusetts’ highest court last year, in a case also defended by Becket.

The Jones family intervened in the case to defend their children’s right to say the Pledge in 2014. They, along with the  Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, are represented by  Becket. Historic defenders of the Pledge, the American Legion also intervened in the case. Becket attorney Diana Verm argued the case to Judge David F. Bauman in November 2014. Eric Rassbach, Deputy General Counsel at Becket, and James Paone of Freehold, New Jersey, acted as co-counsel.

“The American Humanist Association’s challenge turned out to be all bark and no bite,” said  Diana Verm, Legal Counsel at Becket. “This is why it is so crucial for brave citizens like Samantha to stand up for their rights in court—sometimes all it takes to stop a bully is for one person to stand up. The Court was right that the Pledge doesn’t exclude anyone, but dissenters have the right to sit it out. That’s how we’ve always dealt with disagreements in our society.”

This is the fifth time in a row that Becket has  successfully defended  the Pledge of Allegiance. Courts have explained that the Pledge is a voluntary patriotic exercise that teaches American history and civics, and that no schoolchild is required to recite the Pledge against his or her conscience.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202.349.7224.


The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty is a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. For over 20 years, it has defended clients of all faiths, including Buddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians. Its recent cases include three major Supreme Court victories: the landmark ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, and the 9-0 rulings in Holt v. Hobbs and Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC, the latter of which The Wall Street Journal called one of “the most important religious liberty cases in a half century.”