Chelsea Stanton, a high school student in New Jersey, who has repeatedly been punished for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, has finally won her battle, the Cherry Hill Courier Post reports.
Stanton, a senior and atheist at Collingswood High School, says she objects to the words "one nation under God," which appear in the pledge.
“I couldn’t bring myself to recite it anymore, because I felt like it didn’t respect me,” Stanton told CBS Philly. "I don’t think any student anywhere should have to stand up for this."
According to the Cherry Hill Courier Post, she has been sent to administrative offices twice this year for violating the school code of conduct, which requires students to stand for the pledge even if they remain silent.
Yet after doing some research, Stanton found that the law was on her side, not the school's. A state provision requiring students to stand was held unconstitutional by the United States Court of Appeals in 1978, but was never revised to reflect the ruling, CBS Philly reports.
“That’s the beauty of America — that you don’t have to follow the same religion the majority does,” Stanton said.
Now, Stanton is being allowed to sit during the Pledge without facing repercussions. School district superintendant Scott Oswald said that in light of the legal discovery, the school requirement to stand during the pledge "will be removed next year," the Cherry Hill Courier Post reports.
Stanton's victory comes at a time when other students around the country are also fighting for a more secular learning environment.
In South Carolina, the Freedom From Religion Foundation and one of its local members filed a lawsuit last week against School District Five of Lexington and Richland counties over a district policy that sets benediction and invocation practices for school events.
The plaintiff, Matthew Nielson, filed the lawsuit after an initial letter of complaint voicing constitutional concerns was rejected by the district. The legal complaint indicts the district for "excessive governmental entanglement with religion."
In Rhode Island, Cranston High School West student Jessica Ahlquist objected to a prayer banner her school had on display. The 16 year-old brought the case to court, and in Ahlquist v. Cranston, the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island ruled in January that the school prayer banner had to be brought down because it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Ahlquist has also received a $40,000 scholarship fund from the American Humanist Association.
This weekend, Ahlquist will be honored with the Humanist Pioneer Award at this year's annual American Humanist Association in New Orleans, the Christian Post reports.