VICTORY! New Jersey Court Dismisses Humanist Lawsuit Challenging the Pledge of Allegiance

February 12, 2015

Court grants motion of First Liberty Institute client, The American Legion, to dismiss the lawsuit; school children allowed to continue to recite historic, patriotic Pledge

Last week, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, granted a motion by The American Legion to dismiss a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance under the New Jersey Constitution. First Liberty Institute , with our volunteer attorneys, represented the local, state, and national American Legion in the matter.

“We are pleased the Court granted our client The American Legion’s motion to dismiss the case,” said First Liberty Institute General Counsel Jeff Mateer. The unmerited assault on the Pledge of Allegiance and the rights of New Jersey school children to honor God and country is unfortunate and we are thankful that the law has once again been upheld.”


In March 2014, American Humanist Association, representing anonymous plaintiffs, sued the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District for conducting the daily, voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in its schools in accordance with New Jersey law.

The lawsuit sought to have the Pledge’s inclusion of the phrase “under God” declared unconstitutional under the New Jersey Constitution, even though the United States Supreme Court has repeatedly described the “under God” wording in the Pledge of Allegiance as constitutional.

In September 2014, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Monmouth County, permitted The American Legion to become a party in the lawsuit to defend the Pledge of Allegiance. The largest veterans service organization in the nation with approximately 2.3 million members, The American Legion has supported and promoted the Pledge for almost 100 years, including working to ensure the enactment of a 1954 law that added “under God” to the Pledge.


In his opinion, Judge David Bauman discussed both America’s and New Jersey’s long history of acknowledging and relying upon God as the one who secures our liberty.

After citing examples of this history such as the Preamble to the New Jersey Constitution and Benjamin Franklin’s appeal to prayer during the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention, Judge Bauman wrote:

The Pledge of Allegiance, in this historical context, is not to be viewed, and has never been viewed, as a religious exercise. It is intended, rather, as a vehicle to transmit, ‘unimpaired to succeeding generations’ [from the New Jersey Constitution’s Preamble] of American public school boys and girls, those core values of duty, honor, pride and fidelity to country on which the social contract between the United States and its citizens is ultimately based. To that end, the Pledge Statute undeniably advances a compelling state interest.

“Moreover, the words ‘under God’ are now as interwoven through the fabric of the Pledge of Allegiance as the threads of red, white and blue into the fabric of the flag to which the Pledge is recited.”

“As a matter of historical tradition, the words “under God” can no more be expunged from the national consciousness than the words “In God We Trust” from every coin in the land, than the words “so help me God” from every presidential oath since 1789, or than the prayer that has opened every congressional session of legislative business since 1787.”

We applaud today’s outcome of the Court the attack on the school and the Pledge,” said Roger Byron, First Liberty Institute Senior Counsel. “This past May, the U.S. Supreme Court yet again used the Pledge of Allegiance as an example of a clearly lawful practice.”

This lawsuit is the second time the American Humanist Association has challenged the Pledge of Allegiance in state court.  Both times, first in Massachusetts and now in New Jersey, the Pledge was upheld.


The attacks on the Pledge of Allegiance are not the only attempts to scrub references to God from America’s schools. First Liberty Institute clients who have suffered religious discrimination in the school include:

  • 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 – 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. Read more.

With a victory rate of over 90%, First Liberty Institute is committed to defending religious liberty in the school, the church, the military, and the public arena.

Please pray with us and please consider making a donation today to help us to continue winning crucial religious liberty cases across America. Thank you for your support!

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About First Liberty Institute
First 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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