By Billy Corriher
See Page 2A for full pledge text and to read about what locals have to say about the arguments.
With the Supreme Court weighing arguments about the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, many locals say they hope the phrase remains.
Jonesboro resident James Cameron said that even though some parents may object, saying the pledge is voluntary and giving children the option not to recite it is enough.
"There is supposed to be separation of church and state, but each person is allowed to do what they want," he said. "There would be something wrong with making them say it."
Michael Newdow, a California father of a third grade student, argued before the court that the phrase breaches the separation of church and state.
"Imagine you're this one child with a class full of theists and you have this idea that you want to perhaps at least consider and you have everyone imposing their view on you," Newdow told the court on Wednesday.
But Pastor Jeff Lowe of First Baptist Church of Riverdale said he doesn't think parents should have a problem teaching their children not to participate if that's what they wish.
"If I were a classroom teacher, I wouldn't have any trouble with a child who tells me their family doesn't do (the pledge. I respect that position. But I don't have a lot of sympathy for (Newdow's) view."
Amit Patel of Riverdale remembers that when he was in high school five years ago, teachers were strict about students reciting the pledge.
"I got detention once for sleeping when I was supposed to be saying the Pledge of Allegiance," he said.
Patel agrees with Newdow's argument that "under God" should be kept out of the pledge.
"There are atheists out there who take issue with it," he said. "Some parents even find it demeaning."
The Supreme Court already has ruled that schoolchildren cannot be forced to say the pledge, but Newdow says that is not good enough. The phrase "under God" was not even in the original pledge, but was added during the Red Scare of the 1950s.
"There's a principle here and I'm hoping the court will uphold this principle so that we can finally go back and have every American want to stand up, face the flag, place their hand over their heart and pledge to one nation, indivisible, not divided by religion, with liberty and justice for all," Newdow told the court.
If the Supreme Court agrees with Newdow's argument, it could declare that the phrase "under God" breaches the figurative wall separating church and state, which would mean an end to the Pledge of Allegiance as generations of American schoolchildren have known it.
Or, as several justices indicated during arguments, the court could rule that the words are a benign and ceremonial part of a traditional, patriotic exercise.
Jonesboro resident Jimmy Orubina said he thinks the Supreme Court should keep the Pledge of Allegiance as it is.
"The founding fathers of our nation were basing it on God," he said. "One man shouldn't be able to change it."
Jennifer Smith of Jonesboro said taking references to religion out of schools is hurting children.
"It's like they're trying to take God out of the world completely," she said. "What are they going to go after next?"
The Associated Press contributed to this story.