Updates on the Jessica Ahlquist Story

(See previous post here for more details.)

Interesting piece of trivia: Judge Ronald Lagueux was appointed to the bench by that liberal activist…. Ronald Reagan.

Jessica Ahlquist has been added to the list of Reason Rally speakers!

Jessica spoke about the ruling this morning:

“When [Rhode Island ACLU executive director] Steven Brown called me last night to give me the good news, I cried with happiness and relief. I’m so glad and proud that the right decision was made and the constitution was upheld. I am thankful for all that the ACLU and attorneys Lynette Labinger, Thomas Bender and my supportive friends and family have done to help with this case. I am hopeful that this case can be looked back on in the future and encourage others to stand up for their rights as well. It has been a very long and difficult year and a half for me, but it was absolutely worth it.”

“I’m so glad that the right decision was made and that the Constitution was upheld,” Ahlquist said.

“It’s not something that belongs in a school. When I saw it there, I knew it didn’t belong and when I saw it there I knew my school was doing the wrong thing and that my school was not supporting my views,” Ahlquist said.

“I’ve had some difficult experiences there. I don’t know how West is for me now,” Ahlquist said.

“Even if kids in school hate you, even if there are nasty comments on the Internet, it’s important to stand up for what you believe in,” Ahlquist said.

The scholarship drive for Jessica is going well, but please continue to spread word about it!

Several groups have issued press releases or statements in support of Jessica.

The Secular Student Alliance:

“Jessica’s victory today is a wakeup call to the nation that secular students will not be ignored or mistreated,” said Jesse Galef, spokesman for the Secular Student Alliance. “More and more young Americans are identifying as secular, and we’re starting to stand up for our rights. Jessica’s example is inspiring others speak out.”

Other secular high school students have cited Ahlquist as the reason they became activists. In recognition of her influence and importance, the SSA awarded her the Best Individual High School Activist prize in 2011. The award was created last year as part of a new program to offer support to the growing number of secular high school students.

“It took courage for Jessica to stand up for the rights of nonreligious Americans in the face of opposition,” said Galef. “But as she inspires more secular students to stand up, the stigma will wash away. We’re witnessing another domino falling as our demographic gains prominence.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation:

“We warmly congratulate Jessica for standing up for our Constitution. This is a lawsuit that should not even have been necessary. What Jessica endured in order to bring an end to this obvious First Amendment violation shows how essential it is to keep religion out of our public schools, where it creates only mischief and divisiveness,” said FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The American Humanist Association:

“We are so proud of Jessica for fighting to protect church-state separation,” said American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “She recognized injustice, stood up for what is right, and persevered in the face of harassment. She fought for the rights of nonbelievers and religious minorities and is an example for everyone.”

“Today’s ruling by the District Court again confirms something that by now should be crystal clear to government officials: school-sponsored prayer has no place on the walls of a public school,” said Bill Burgess, attorney and legal coordinator of the American Humanist Association’s legal arm, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center. “The court clearly noted that the prayer mural’s long-standing nature, considered a school tradition by some, did not overcome its unconstitutional nature and justify its continued presence.”

Rob Boston of Americans United:

In a 40-page slam dunk, Lagueux first dismissed school officials’ claims that Ahlquist had no right to challenge the banner. He then went on to explain why this official school prayer, which has been hanging in the gym since 1963, is patently unconstitutional.

Near the end of his opinion, Lagueux called Ahlquist “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.”

He’s right about that. At 16, Ahlquist had the guts to stand up to a howling mob and prevail. She deserves our support.

I’ll post more updates as they come in.



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Dan Dorfman

    We need some backup on the news page. People are calling Jessica Ahlquist a “stupid self-righteous know it all”, and that’s one of the more tamer insults. 

    • Kevin_Of_Bangor
      • Annie

        Oh my.  The law is pretty straight forward… how can so many of the people writing the comments be so resistant to accept their own nation’s constitution? Hang tough, Jessica!  You did an amazing thing!

      • Snuffles

        http://nation.foxnews.com/prayer/2012/01/12/federal-judge-says-prayer-banner-must-be-removed
        Looks like Fox news is sniffing around (be sure to uprate the article as inspiring, its currently set as “offensive” to america…*sigh*)

        • Kevin_Of_Bangor

          Done and those comments are just as sad.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

      The twitter comments are pretty entertaining.
      Destiny Marcello
      “RT!! @syydthakiid: OMG IM TOTES FOLLOWING JESSICA ON TWITTER” only to see how pathetic she is”

      “I love how we all have an excuse to talk shit about the same person #teamheaven”

      Team Heaven… lol.

      • jose

        Yeah so what exactly is “jumping” someone?

        • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

          attacking them. Like an ambush.

          • John

            As her address has been posted on the internet. Death threats through the mail are very likely. Hopefully she is prepared.

  • jose

    Incredible the kind of nastiness you might suffer just for defending the Constitution, huh?

  • Daniel

    “Jessica, a self-proclaimed Atheist…”

    I somehow doubt that this broadcaster also states things like, “Steven, a self-proclaimed Catholic”, “Samantha, a self-proclaimed Buddhist” or “Rick Santorum, a self-proclaimed Republican”.

    • Anonymous

      That caught my attention as well.
      Also, is there any other kind of atheist other than self-proclaimed?
      I don’t have the time to wait around for someone else to tell me I’m an atheist.

    • Kyle

      Presumably that columnist thought atheist was a dirty word and so didn’t want to give the impression that she was calling someone else an atheist.

      • Alsee

        I got the same impression. I think in journalism school they beat into your head strict rules and to avoid slandering people. Things like being extremely careful to refer to criminals as “suspect” and “accused”. It seems that in this case the reporter considered “atheist” to be a slanderous term, and it triggered an automatic reflex to attribute that term directly to the girl herself.

  • Atoswald

    Via Greta Christina, “Jessica Ahlquist won a court case against theocracy — and now someone has posted her address online in response. This is so profoundly not okay.”
     
    Not only is this not okay, if something happens to Jessica or any of her family members as a result, this person will be directly responsible. It’s criminal. :/

  • dorothy30

    make sure to vote in the online poll in the Cranston Patch
    http://cranston.patch.com/articles/judge-orders-prayer-banner-removed

  • Justin Miyundees

    Justin, a self proclaimed self proclaimer, says contribute early to Jessica’s scholarship fund!! EMILY:  Early money is like yeast!  So you’ll help spur the giving.  This wonderful human being deserves the thanks and support of all Americans.  What a monumental feat!!!  Rock On Jessica!!!!!!

  • gsw

    No matter what your religion – if the choice is between theocracy and secularism, you have to choose secularism, since you can’t guarantee which theocracy it will be.

  • Charliemorgan

    If she wasn’t going to hell
    before, she sure is now. Jessica Ahlquist was victorious in her fight against
    the Cranston West High School mural that was addressed to “Our Heavenly
    Father,” and concluded with the word “Amen.” Jessica — an atheist — made a
    stink about the mural earlier in the school year citing the separation of
    church and state. Her father, Mark, filed a lawsuit for his Jesus-spiting
    daughter. Yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux ruled that the
    http://www.rhodeblock.com/2012/01/12/satan-forces-mural-west/ 

    • Dave

      If Jesus is watching right now, who do you think he admires most? You or Jessica Ahlquist?
      No contest, is it?

      Well done Jessica. Brave, honest, thoughtful and principled.

    • http://www.facebook.com/the.electro.dream Dreamr OKelly

      You are an idiot. Christians (if you group them all together, catholics, evangelicals, lutherans, and the like), you guys make up LESS THEN A 1/3 of the worlds population.

      If there is an all-powerful, perfect man in the sky, then why is he losing his own battle?

      Stop tell people they are going to hell. You are a bigot and an a-hole, and you are wrong. Go back to your cave and please stop using hospitals, computers, and airplanes. After all, these things DONT work by prayer or magic, they work according to science, which runs apposed (with evidence) to your little imaginary friend.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

      Charlie is a fine example of Christianty US style…..a fascist fundy who blames an imaginary boogeyman for all the worlds ills, but probably Teblow’s his ass off when he gets his way.

      Charlie….what sort of omnipresent and all powerful god is it that allows a 16 year old girl and the ACLU to win such a victory? All powerful…..or just one that isnt actually there? Hmmmmmmmm?????

  • Quine

    Great work for freedom, Jessica!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sandy-Kokch/100000074576649 Sandy Kokch

    First up a massive thanks for contnuing to run with ths story, and also hats off all round for running the scholarship fund. Kids like Jessica and Damon need every ounce of support they can get, and a headstart into college is the best of all.

    Also hats off to the judge. What a well written and clear judgement. It will join my colelction alongside Judge Jones’ famous Kitzmiller ruling.

    Next….as to that shabby pack of cowards levellng threats at this brave young lass. Track them down, suspend them, prosecute them one and all. And do not allow the local law boys a minutes peace till it is done. So they found one already yet this little hate flled goof hasnt been suspended? Why the hell not?

    Finally…to that equally shabby pack of goons the school board. I suggest the local authorities now sue each of them for the court costs for the case. At the next election round remember what they did, and like the Dover school board kick them out and vote in people who wont cost the school money and allow a lass like Jessica to get bullied and stigmatsed.

    Well done Jessica ….. you are a heroine lass.

  • Faustofrancisco48

    great work for freedom ?? I hope she doesnt use money or she might find the “in.god we trust” offensive i never had a problem with athiestsim but this jus ticked me off. This country was built on religion and it is true that you have the right to belive whatever you want but does thar give you the right to take from others. If it bothered her so much she could of jus ignored it jus like im pretty.she does to the god renfernces on money.

    • Kyle

      The god references on money are every bit as unconstitutional and divisive and it’s about time for those to be removed as well. But of course all the big boys in Washington are too cowardly and corrupt to do anything at this point. Also a change of that magnitude would take a lot more work than taking down one little prayer from a wall.

      No you don’t have the right to stop people from praying on their own time, but public schools are for everyone and aren’t allowed to favor those in a religious majority.

  • Anonymous

    Being a cheeky sod, I can’t help but logically point out that atheist activism is a bubble movement, it will grow and grow and, then burst as if it never existed.
    While this might make Christians cheer, only clear thinking secularists will understand it’s meaning.

  • Tsw8848

    Go Jessica – the vitriol you received was appalling. So much for Christians being loving haha. If god existed their god would not be the god of love they claim.

    There are millions of people who support you girl so be strong.


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