2012-01-15 "16-Year-Old Girl Threatened by Christians with Beatings and Worse for Filing First Amendment Suit"
In Cranston, Rhode Island, 16 year old Jessica Ahlquist, a student at Cranston High School West, filed suit back in April along with the American Civil Liberties Union objecting on First Amendment grounds to a prayer banner hung in that school's auditorium. The issue has been controversial [http://cranston.patch.com/articles/aclu-files-lawsuit-against-prayer-banner].
The School Committee held a number of public hearings, during which tempers flared and people both for and against the banner filled the auditorium at Western Hills Middle School to voice their opinions. Based on those discussions, it appears a majority supports leaving the banner intact. But Ahlquist and the ACLU remain critical of it, citing the obvious religious nature of the phrase "Our Heavenly Father" and "Amen" within a school setting.
“A Christian Catholic prayer may bring comfort to the majority of students in my school,” said a confident and composed Ahlquist, who sat surrounded by her father, two lawyers, the ACLU Executive Director Steve Brown, a reverend and a rabbi. “But it sends a different message to the large population of students of other faith or in my case, none. I firmly believe that it should not be on display in a public school.”
I find it disheartening that the issue would even be controversial in the first place.
The Court's decision in this case established the "Lemon test", which details the requirements for legislation concerning religion. It consists of three prongs:
The government's action must have a secular legislative purpose;
The government's action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion;
The government's action must not result in an "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
If any of these 3 prongs are violated, the government's action is deemed unconstitutional under the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
Well, there you go. It is difficult to imagine a banner with an inscription, beginning, "Heavenly Father" and ending with, "Amen" in a public school auditorium having any secular purpose, or not being considered to advance one religion while inhibiting others (or the lack thereof, in the instant case) but the attempt was made.
"Roger Williams, the founder of the Rhode Island Colony, opposed government sanctioned or mandated expressions of religious significance and [the school district] attempted to reject and trivialize the message to preserve it," Labinger said, noting that school officials aruged there was no religious significance to the mural and emphasized its historic value [http://cranston.patch.com/articles/ahlquist-fight-over-mural-despite-harrassment-threats-worth-it].
Emphasis mine: see, "tea, weak."
And a federal judge didn't buy that one either, ordering that the banner be removed [http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/01/cranston-west-s-1.html#.TxLyBm-ufU9].
Get this: The auditorium has been locked while the district considers whether to appeal the ruling.
That said, the followers of the Prince of Peace have responded to the judge's ruling by issuing various levels of fatwa on this young girl.
From the JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks blog come various screenshots of the threats of violence made against Jessica Ahlquist [http://jesusfetusfajitafishsticks.blogspot.com/2012/01/ahlquist-screenshots-if-by-christian.html], including such messages of unconditional love as:
“shes not human shes garbage”
“I think everyone should just fight this girl”
“I’ll drop anchor on her face”
“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner”
“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holacaust to all the atheists”
“i cant wait to hear about you getting curb stomped”
“everyone is going to beat you up prob”
“what a little bitch lol I wanna snuff her”
And perhaps, most chilling of all:
Stochastic terrorism, anyone?
Since the decision, Cranston Police said they are investigating threats made against Ahlquist on the Internet, including numerous Twitter posts by some of her classmates declaring that she should be beaten up. Some of the comments could constitute cyberbullying and represent violations of the Safe Schools Act — recently passed legislation that establishes a unified state policy against cyberbullying approved by the Rhode Island General Assembly last year and signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee last summer...Police said they are patrolling Ahlquists' house and the school this weekend.
And before we brush this off as an overreaction, let's remember Drs. Tiller and Slepian.
The,"No True Scotsman" argument in response to this is inevitable, of course. I'll go back toJesusFetusFajitaFishsticks for a response to that:
UPDATE:This is mentioned in one of the linked articles, but PZ Myers has put out a call to action on Pharyngula. I'll bring it here [http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/01/15/unleash-the-kraken-on-peter-g-palumbo]:
Unleash the Kraken on Peter G. Palumbo!
January 15, 2012 at 6:43 pm PZ Myers
Palumbo is a Rhode Island representative; he just called one of his constituents, Jessica Ahlquist, an “evil little thing” who was “being coerced by evil people”. I think he needs to apologize. No, scratch that; he needs to lose his next election. Contact him! Palumbo’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. His office phone number is (401) 785-2882.
The post contains a link to the podcast of the radio show where Palumbo made the remark in question. (h/t: WayBeyondSoccerMom)
Photograph showing Jessica Ahlquist