A South Jersey high school student is fighting for her right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in its entirety in response to a lawsuit filed by an atheist group seeking to take the words "one nation under God" out of the pledge.

Steve Frost, ThinkStock

In April, the American Humanist Association (AHA) filed a lawsuit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District, claiming the phrase "under God" in the pledge violates the state constitution and marginalizes atheist and humanist students.

But 18-year-old Samantha Jones, a senior at Highland Regional High School in Camden County, and her family are fighting back.

Jones said the bottom line is students don't have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance if they don't want to.

"Saying the pledge is optional in New Jersey. I don't think they (atheists) should silence every student just because some people disagree with timeless American values. They have the right to remain silent, but they don't have the right to silence everyone else," Jones said.

This is the second state-level lawsuit brought by the AHA. The association's first suit was unanimously rejected by Massachusetts' highest court earlier this year. After the Jones family heard about the lawsuit, they applied to intervene, and a New Jersey court ruled that they could.  The Knights of Columbus and the American Legion have also been approved to intervene.

"As a senior in high school, I have always been taught about our freedom and liberty as Americans and I saw the opportunity and I wanted to take it," Jones said when asked why she decided to join the court battle.

The defendants are represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has repeatedly noted that no schoolchild is required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The AHA is claiming that having the words "under God" in the pledge violates the state constitution.

"I have been reciting the pledge since I have been in preschool, so to me the phrase 'one nation under God' sums up the history and values that have made my country great," Jones said.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.