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New Jersey Toll Collector Says Ordered To Stop Saying, 'God Bless You'

PERTH AMBOY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A toll taker in New Jersey said she was asked to stop saying, "God bless you," after she told her boss that was how she thanked drivers.

As CBS 2's Christine Sloan reported, Cynthia Fernandez said it was just the way she greeted drivers while working as a temporary toll taker on the Garden State Parkway.

"As they leave, I said, 'Have a good day, God bless you,'" she said.

But the mother of three said her boss told her to stop.

"He told me he wanted to talk to me, that I couldn't say, 'God bless you,' anymore to customers because somebody might get offended," Fernandez said.

Fernandez quit her job this past Sunday, and a spokesman for the Garden State Parkway said Fernandez made no mention of her alleged conversation with her boss, Henry Lee. She only said she was leaving because she could not get a steady shift, the spokesman said.

Lee declined to comment to CBS 2.

The spokesman also said the agency has no policy against saying, "God bless you."

"It does say, 'Provide customer service, smile' – it does say all that," Fernandez said. "But it does not say in any line, 'Do not say, 'God bless you.'"

Many said they have no issue with someone saying, "God bless you."

"'God bless you?' No. I wouldn't be offended at all," said Dale Carbonier of Bethel, Connecticut. "And am I the most religious person in the world? No."

"What are you going to do when somebody sneezes? What are you going to say?" said Joe Horowitz of Brooklyn. "You got to say, 'God bless you.'"

But a group representing atheists said the state agency should have a policy against using religious phrases.

"When a government employee says, 'God bless you,' they're implying that that's the government's position," said David Muscato of the group American Atheists. "And because of the First Amendment -- because of the separation of religion and government – it's necessary for the government to remain secular and neutral."

But Fernandez said some toll takers barely bother to acknowledge drivers at all.

"There's toll takers that are on the phone the whole time, with an earpiece, ignoring customers," she said. "They don't even make eye contact."

For now, Fernandez will be working in a less public position – babysitting.

Officials at the New Jersey Turnpike, which runs the Garden State Parkway, also said Fernandez handed them a resignation letter consisting of one line with the date she was leaving.

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