I think one of the reasons why people feel it’s OK to say whatever they like about atheists is because 1) the name has become so closely associated with godless communist heathens that people have developed a hostile reaction to the word from an early age and 2) religion means knowing you’re right and feeling good about it. Well, this time …
Okay first, a little bit of backstory. Back in April of last year, the ACLU, at the behest of self-described atheist and Cranston High School West sophomore Jessica Ahlquist, requested a preliminary injunction against the prayer banner that hangs in the auditorium of the school on the grounds that it violates the First Amendment.
While the majority of those involved in the discussion feel the banner should be left intact and undisturbed based on the non-denominational nature of the prayer, Jessica and others (including a rabbi and a Baptist minister) maintain that the use of phrases like “Our Heavenly Father” and “Amen” at the end leave little to interpretation.
“[It] is the genius of the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights and the unique message that it stands for and conveys… that we have freedom in this country to practice whatever religion we choose, or none at all and that Government should not be taking sides, particularly in our public schools,” wrote [ACLU attorney] Labinger in a press release given out at the conference, “It takes an extraordinary amount of courage for a young person such as Jessica to come forward, in the face of often heated and angry rhetoric.”
Last Wednesday (Jan.11), a federal court judge ruled that the banner did, in fact, violate the First Amendment and ordered that it be removed immediately. This is an excerpt from the 40-page decision by US District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux (but I yanked the selected text from this guy):
The Court rules that Plaintiff [Ahlquist] has standing in this matter and rules in her favor on the merits of this dispute. The Court also orders the immediate removal of the Prayer Mural from the auditorium at Cranston West.
The Court refrains from second-guessing the expressed motives of the Committee members, but nonetheless must point out that tradition is a murky and dangerous bog. 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.
Plaintiff is clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in light of the hostile response she has received from her community.
“Hostile response”, you say? How bad could it be?
Oh, well, if you mean ridiculous name calling, threats made to her safety (and OMG HER IMMORTAL SOUL!), as well as the posting of her address online, then yeah, I suppose it could be interpreted as “hostile”. All done, of course, by self-proclaimed “Christians” who are upset that they can’t have a prayer banner in a school that gets money from the state / federal government. It’s gotten so bad that the police are now investigating some of the people behind the hostile messages.
To see some (A LOT) more examples of Christian love and compassion, go here. I have a few examples selected by DailyKos:
“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”
Rhode Island State Representative Peter G Palumbo did nothing to help the situation by remarking during a radio interview with John dePetro after the court’s decision that she is an “evil little thing” who is being “coerced by evil people”. Seriously? For doing something that is consistent with the US constitution you all pretend to value? I don’t think I am exaggerating or using any harsher language than appropriate by saying that ol’ Pete is a fucking bully, and in making remarks like this he is giving significant credibility to all of the rabid lunatics who are posting threats to Jessica on Facebook.
Seriously, it’s like society has to re-learn the concept of discrimination every single time it comes out that a new demographic is getting the shit end of the deal at the hands of the majority. In the meantime, we have to listen to inflammatory, intellectually bankrupt drivel at the hands of idiots like Fox News, the entire religious right, and a significant number of Jessica’s own generation who have been taught by their parents to hate what they don’t understand simply because they’re right, they know it, and they don’t have to compromise.