Jessica Ahlquist is a typical teenager. She has a twitter, worries about the Prom, and is an atheist. Which doesn’t always work out so well in the strongly-catholic Rhode Island. The reason? The prominently-displayed School Prayer that hangs in the halls of Cranston High School West; her high school.
“When I saw it there, I knew it didn’t belong,” Ahlquist said. “And every time that I saw it, it was a reminder that my school wasn’t doing the right thing and that my school didn’t necessarily support me and my views.”
While for people who take for granted that a public school should be allowed to posit a prayer in whatever God they want, causing division and isolation with students, it is a problem. A problem that Jessica saw, and was willing to do something about. A Constitution problem.
Jessica first went to the administration and asked that the prayer be taken down. The administration ignored her request. She then got the ACLU to call, pleading with them to not engage school funds to fight a battle they would lose. The administration wouldn’t budge. And thus, Jessica, at age 16, became the plaintiff in a lawsuit, represented by the ACLU, against the school in an open-and-shut constitutional violation.
Thats where things get bad. Jessica was ostracized, facing criticism from her classmates, anonymous internet attackers, and even the adults of the city. JT Eberhard points out the irony of painting someone fighting for the Constitution as “the bad guy.” Instantly, because of her desire to have all views respected, and no one religion trumpeted as the ‘right one,’ Christians of the town began to show their true colors. From the Cranston Patch:
Ahlquist… was dubbed “an evil little thing,” a “clapping seal” and a “pawn star” on WPRO today by state Rep. Peter Polombo. Students have threatened to beat her up. An anonymous commenter posted her home address on the Providence Journal’s Web site last night. Readers on this website and others that covered the story have called her “a little snot,” a “witch” and accuse her of seeking attention.
State Representative Peter Polombo. Calling a child, a teenager an “evil little thing” for standing up for her civil liberties. Really? Meanwhile on Twitter, as news of the win spread, the religious began to show up:
@jvezina022: @jessicaahlquist I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus @awatersss this bitch is soooo dumb why the fuck did you make it such a big deal?!?! @zombiecamera: death to @jessicaahlquist @zombiecamera @jessicaahlquist … i cant wait to hear about you getting curb stomped you fucking worthless cunt @Patriotsof1776: @jessicaahlquist A victory for Satan… yeah. @dppjr33: @jessicaahlquist waste of sperm award
- @TayCrocks: omg she almost as bad as blacks
- kyle_farley Jessica ahlquist caused a huge deal & the whole school to hate her..if u dot like the banner, don’t look at it
#idiot #gotohell RT this
- jhaltonxo Jessica Ahlquist is a dumb bitch and I hope she gets the shit beat out of her. Who the fuck are you to diss a whole religion??
@kyle_farley: @jessicaahlquist yea so i hope this bitch h as fun sittin by herself & havin no friends ever again @XXX_carys: no public defender will even take that bitch seriously” @jessicaahlquist @dppjr33: @jessicaahlquist to take something as petty as this & cost tax payers $$. . My friend all u r is a cunt
- ug_garage Ajent Oranje
@jessicaahlquist You are a pathetic and spoiled little cunt. A little glory chaser. Take your atheist religion and shove it.
- wonderbreadccwm Wonderbread jessicaahlquist : I hope you get raped by a satanist. Find something productive to do with your time, cunt.
While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve. At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction. The Court concludes that Cranston’s purposes in installing and, more recently, voting to retain the Prayer Mural are not clearly secular.
In response to the torrent of threats levied at Jessica this afternoon, atheists across the nation mobilized on twitter, and began shouting their support for Jessica, who has now been invited to speak at the Reason Rally in March. She’s an amazing speaker, for a 16-year-old, and has endured more than most atheists do in their entire lives. She is the Harry Potter of Atheism, and I support her, for one, and you should too.