I wasn't going to discuss Jessica Ahlquist and her lawsuit against her school over a prayer banner as I've read so much on the subject over the past week or so and I don't have anything new to add. Then I realized that I was reading about this issue from bloggers who were atheists and that many of my readers may not have heard about the story at all since they don 't read these blogs.
So - I'm going to tell about this situation so that others can know what has been going on. Here it is in a nutshell:
Jessica Ahlquist is a high school student in Cranston, RI. She was sitting in an assembly held in her school gymnasium one day and noticed a banner on the wall. It was entitled, "School Prayer" and did, indeed, seem to be a prayer. It began with "Our Heavenly Father" and ended with "Amen" so it appeared to be a Christian prayer, as well. Jessica wondered if it was legal to have that banner hung in a public school, so she looked into it. She started attending school board meetings and spoke at one of these meetings about the banner and requested that the banner be taken down as she believed it was in violation of the US Constitution.
The school board discussed the issue and ultimately decided not to remove the banner.
The ACLU heard about the case and asked Jessica if she would be the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the school district and she agreed.
The judge in this case made his ruling last week. He ruled in favor of Jessica and ordered the banner to be removed. This article sums up the decision very well. The decision, itself, can be found here.
It appears that the school is not going to fight the decision so you'd think the whole thing would be over. You'd be wrong. See... many people throughout this process have gone out of their way to insult and bully Jessica for her beliefs. (well - lack of belief, really. She is an atheist.) These personal attacks have only increased since the judge's decision was announced. This blog has screenshots of many of these personal attacks from Twitter and Facebook. Keep in mind that these are aimed at a 16 year-old student.
It is so bad that even a RI state representative (Peter Palumbo) has taken a potshot at Jessica on a radio show, calling her an "evil little thing". (I'm pleased to mention that not all politicians in Rhode Island feel this way. Governor Lincoln Chafee has made a statement that he agrees with the justice's decision in this case.)
Now, my point in bringing all this to my readers' attentions is simply that I want people to be more aware of what some people do in the name of their religion and/or their God. I am not going to lump everyone together but please understand: This may be an extreme example but it is not an isolated incident.
I'm not going to say anything further other than to remark that this sort of incident is the kind of thing that makes me believe that human beings would be better off without any religious beliefs at all.
Image courtesy of Jared Rodriguez