Thursday, January 19, 2012

photo: Providence Journal
Up in Cranston a 16-year old atheist objected to her school posting a school prayer in a position of prominence.  After a protracted tussle, the school was forced to take it down.  She's since been continually threatened by fellow students and community members.  Talk Radio hosts have lambasted her.  Her cretinous state representative, Peter Palumbo, (a Democrat) has called her an "evil little thing" being "coerced by evil people."  Even the local florists refused to deliver flowers of support to her.

Jessica Ahlquist is giving (or at least offering) her community a much-needed lesson in civics, the Constitution and history - especially ironic in a state that was founded explicitly and emphatically as a refuge from religious intolerance.

The Christians who would shun or cast out this young woman accuse her of being intolerant.  They ask why she cannot just - not be offended - by this prayer - this plaintive request to God to "grant us" our better impulses and to "help us" be better.  After all, they insist, it's not like they are using public school grounds to insist that she or anyone else adopt particular religious beliefs.

That lie is utterly exposed in the breach.  Ahlquist pointed out that this banner shows the school expects her to believe in God, though she does not believe in God, and it's illegal and unconstitutional for public institutions to elevate one religious belief over another.  The Christians of the community could have responded in a way that showed they supported this student's right to atheism as diligently as they support the right of other students to believe in God.  Instead they made it perfectly clear that her atheism was beyond the pale, that she was evil, that a true member of the school community must necessarily be a believer, and that she was exactly right and justified in her insistence that she was being made a marginalized religious dissident.

If you want to give Jessica a virtual pat on the back for standing up to religious bigotry there's a facebook page dedicated to just that, of course.  

UPDATE: or buy the T-shirt!