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7,500 youth sign petition for Pledge of Allegiance

MILTON, Fla. (BP)–When 11-year-old Tanner Lunsford visited Washington, D.C., on a family vacation, he noticed that many of the monuments quoted Bible verses. Not long after they returned home, controversy erupted over the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled in early 2003 that “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the separation of church and state. Although the ruling was opposed by a plethora of agencies and organizations, including the U.S. Justice Department, the court refused to hear the case again. The case was appealed to the nation’s highest court.

Lunsford, a member of Pine Terrace Baptist Church in Milton, Fla., questioned how a nation whose monuments spoke of God’s influence in the building of America could take His name out of its pledge. He decided to take on the issue.

“I think that kids should have a say in this decision,” he wrote in a statement to the Florida Baptist Witness. “After all, we are the ones who recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.”

Citing the reaction to 9/11 as proof of America’s dependence on God, Lunsford continued, “I believe that this is ‘one nation under God.’… One day we ‘the kids of America’ will inherit this country and it is our duty to protect what is true.”

Lunsford asked his parents, Keith and Donna Lunsford, what to do about his convictions. After consulting the American Center for Law and Justice in Virginia Beach, Va., they advised Lunsford to start a petition among his classmates so they could let the Supreme Court know their feelings about the pledge.

What started in his fifth-grade classroom at Rhodes Elementary School has mushroomed into a movement among not only elementary students but also middle and high school students throughout Santa Rosa County in the Florida panhandle. One 50-yard-long petition is filled, and another of the same size is continuing to circulate throughout area schools, with more than 7,500 signatures collected thus far.

With permission from school administrators, Lunsford, along with various relatives, have visited school cafeterias during lunch hours to collect signatures.

The petition reads: “Dear Supreme Court of the United States of America: I understand that someone wants to take ‘under God’ out of our Pledge of Allegiance. I feel that you should not take that out of our Pledge. Also, I think that it is important that you know how we, the kids of America, feel about this decision. Shouldn’t it matter how we feel about this? After all, we are the ones that stand up every morning and say the Pledge. Please consider all of the signatures from kids that feel the same way that I do. Thank you.”

With the pledge issue set to be addressed by the Supreme Court on March 24, Lunsford and his family hope to deliver the massive petition to the court, and perhaps President George W. Bush, in person. Their congressman, Jeff Miller, also has offered to deliver the document.

Lunsford, as one of the “kids of America,” said, “It is our duty to protect what it true.”

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ, a public interest law firm specializing in constitutional law, told the Florida Baptist Witness the proposed censorship of the pledge has motivated people like Lunsford to act.

“The pledge case has touched a nerve across America,” Sekulow said. “The First Amendment is the cornerstone of our constitution. And, the price of freedom means that sometimes you hear or see things you don’t agree with. That doesn’t mean the Supreme Court should censor the pledge and remove the words ‘under God.'”

The ACLJ filed a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court Dec. 19 in support of the pledge, representing more than 250,000 Americans who have signed on to their brief and joined the ACLJ Committee to Protect the Pledge. In addition, the brief represents nearly 70 members of Congress.
Carolyn Nichols is a writer for the Florida Baptist Witness, on the Web at www.floridabaptistwitness.com. To express thoughts on the pledge issue, write to the Supreme Court, One First North East Street, Washington, D.C. 20543 or contact the ACLJ at www.aclj.org. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SUPPORTING THE PLEDGE.

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  • Carolyn Nichols