Liberty Institute to Protect “Under God” in Pledge of Allegiance

October 3, 2014

Court grants our client, The American Legion, the right to intervene in ongoing lawsuit to defend the Pledge. . .

The Pledge of Allegiance, originally written in 1892 to inspire patriotism and help train students to be good citizens, is under attack today by the American Humanist Association (an organization officially promoting atheism), who is suing a school district to have the phrase “under God” declared unconstitutional under the New Jersey Constitution. 

But recently, Liberty Institute won a very important victory in this lawsuit when the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, granted a motion allowing Liberty Institute’s client, The American Legion, the right to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the Pledge.


The Court’s order permits the Legion to become a party in the case, American Humanist Association v. Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, to defend the Pledge it has supported and promoted since it convened the very first National Flag Conference in 1923.  According to Liberty Institute Senior Counsel Roger Byron, the lawsuit—which began on March 31, 2014—is “meritless,” and he points to its waste of “precious time and resources.”  The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently used the “under God” language in the Pledge as an example of a lawful, constitutional activity, and did so most recently in May of this year in Town of Greece v. Galloway, which upheld a town’s right to have a prayer before its meetings. 

Similarly, in 1984 the Court observed that “the language ‘One nation under God,’ as part of the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag . . . recited by thousands of public school children—and adults—every year” is a “reference to our religious heritage” in the same vein as “official references to the value and invocation of Divine guidance in deliberations and pronouncements of the Founding Fathers.”

As the largest veterans service organization in the nation with approximately 2.3 million members, The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919 and was instrumental in crafting the current language of the Pledge of Allegiance.

At the National Flag Conferences of 1923 and 1924, the words of the Pledge were changed from “I pledge allegiance to my Flag” to “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America.”  And in 1942, the Legion led the way in convincing Congress to adopt into law the Flag Code that included the Pledge.  Similarly, in 1954 the Legion worked to ensure that the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.


Whether words “under God” are recited in a historic pledge, included in graduation speeches, or painted on student-created run-through banners at school football games, radical “Goliath” organizations that are funded by wealthy individuals and corporations—including the ACLU, Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the American Humanist Association—are doing whatever it takes to attack our freedom of religion and freedom of speech in our nation’s schools. 

But Liberty Institute is fighting back on behalf of clients including:

  • Kendra Turner – A high school student at Dyer County High School in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Kendra Turner was kicked out of class for saying “bless you”—a banned phrase written by the teacher on the classroom white board.  Read more.
  •  Brooks Hamby – High School salutatorian Brooks Hamby’s graduation speech was censored three times by the Brawley Union School District in Brawley, California.  Read more.
  • Kountze Cheerleaders – In 2012, middle school and high school cheerleaders in Kountze, Texas, decided to paint inspirational messages from the Bible on run-through banners used at school football games.  After receiving a complaint letter from Freedom From Religion Foundation, the school district banned the religious messaging.  We filed a lawsuit on behalf of the cheerleaders and their parents, and are now petitioning the Supreme Court of Texas to guarantee the private speech rights of the cheerleaders and review and reverse the decision of the Beaumont Court of Appeals.  Read more. 


Whether uttered in a classroom, or before a school event, the Pledge of Allegiance, with the phrase “under God,” is a lynchpin that helps hold together America’s social framework.  But there are those who want to remove it.  The focus on removing it from public schools is especially intense.

“Attacks on religious expression in our nation’s schools today are the worst that we have ever seen,” says Liberty Institute President & CEO Kelly Shackelford.  “And this attempt to enact some sort of religious cleansing is not the law in this country and never has been.  That would be religious hostility.”

That’s why now more than ever, Liberty Institute is committed to defending students—and teachers’—freedom of religious expression in the classroom.   But we need your help!

Please help support this workto defend religious freedom and pray for victory in this ongoing case—to protect The Pledge of Allegiance, a reference to our “religious heritage” and what is recited by thousands of public school children and adults every year.

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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches, in the military and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit

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