Protesting “One Nation Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance: Emma Martens


Emma Martens

In 1997, Freedom From Religion Foundation Board Member Richard Mole generously endowed an annual Student Activist Award, in the memory of Ruth “Dixie” Jokinen. The annual award is a $1,000 cash scholarship.

The awards recognize outstanding activism for freethought or the separation of church and state by high school and college students. Recipients have often included litigants or newsmakers who have championed the freedom of conscience or the separation between church and state.

The winner of the 2007 scholarship is Emma Martens, Colorado, whose student club made headlines because it is walking out of school every Thursday to protest “under God” in the intercom-recited Pledge of Allegiance.

Read Emma’s statement below.

By Emma Martens

My heart leapt as I saw the number of students gathered in our courtyard. There must have been about 100 students gathered there together that Thursday, Sept. 27. We were there to protest the Pledge of Allegiance that had just recently started being broadcast at Boulder High School over the school’s intercom during 2nd period–in other words for the entire school to hear every day. More specifically we were protesting the wording of the pledge, “One Nation under God.”


The walkout

This protest was sponsored by myself and our student activist club, Student Worker. We feel that our school has an extremely diverse population, not all of who believe in God, or one God. By introducing this pledge into our school day, the school administration has introduced religion into a government-funded institution, and therefore it is a violation of the separation of church and state.

We explained all this and suggested to our principal, Bud Jenkins, an alternative: having a recitation of the pledge in the school auditorium during the lunch periods for the people who wish to participate. When we received no response, Student Worker decided to continue on with a peaceful protest. We gathered in the courtyard that Thursday to recite an alternative pledge, not meant to replace the existing one, but rather as a mission statement.


Emma Martens

The new pledge reads:

“We pledge allegiance to the flag, and our constitutional rights with which it comes, and to the diversity in which our nation stands, one nation part of one planet, with liberty, freedom, choice, and justice for all.”

The protest was short, respectful, but nonetheless effective. The administration of the pledge has not yet been changed, but you can count on us meeting every Thursday until we are able to reach some sort of resolution with the administration, hopefully working with them, not against.


As a volunteer last summer in Panama

Many critics argue that this nation was founded on the basis of religion. We feel that our nation was founded on the basis of questioning authority, and in doing so, expressing and protecting the constitutional rights we are so fortunate to have. Student Worker and I are proud to carry on this tradition, and encourage any and everyone to stand up for your rights.

Let your voice be heard. After all, that’s what being an American is all about.

“My name is Emma Martens. I am 17 and a senior at Boulder High School. I was born and raised in Boulder Colo., and love most everything about it. Along with my passion for activism, I am also a soccer player, baker, skier, snowboarder, writer, and traveler. One of the most influential experiences in my life was this past summer, where I spent two months living and doing community service in a small community in Panama. I have been a member of Student Worker all four years of high school and proud to have the opportunity to be one of the clubs presidents this year.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation