Rhode Island State Senator Beth Moura Really Doesn’t Get It…

Here’s a politician who doesn’t get it… and keeps digging herself into a deeper hole.

Yesterday, Republican Rhode Island State Senator Beth Moura tweeted an insult about Jessica Ahlquist, snidely calling her the ‘ACLU’s sweetheart’. That suggests to me that the ACLU manipulated Jessica into fighting this battle, a claim which is not at all true. Her uncle, Steve Ahlquist, even said, “She was interested in doing this. She found this issue herself, she was very passionate and she glommed onto it.”

After that comment, atheists on Twitter let her know that she was acting like a fool. She was behaving immaturely. She was acting undignified for someone of her stature.

Twitter user @ologies said that Moura was putting her foot in her mouth.

How did Moura respond to that?

She called the police. Because, apparently, that was a violent threat and not the use of a well-known idiom…

*Sigh* (I guess that’s what happens when Wikipedia is down for the day…?)

Like I said, she just keeps making herself look increasingly ignorant.

After that, she shut down her Twitter account completely.

Beth Moura: Enjoys criticizing a brave high-schooler. Runs away when she gets called out on it.

Mark Panzarino, The Honest Atheist, actually got a voicemail back from Moura… he transcribed it and offers his commentary here:

An excerpt from the rebuttal:

… Senator Moura made several comments about Atheists being angry — a comment which includes Jessica Ahlquist in the general sense, of course and is bigoted and ignorant in the specific sense. The “debate” between Ms. Ahlquist and the radio journalist (@JohnDePetroWPRO) did not involve the Senator at any time…unless she involved herself in the discussion willingly. And was ignored…willingly. The Senator was not “brought in”…and the Tweets reveal this to be true.

If you want to show your support to Jessica, contributing to her college fund is one way to do it:

(Thanks to Sarah for the screenshot!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    Why do you fail to mention her party affiliation again? She’s a Republican Rhode Island State Senator and any discussion of her should include that party affiliation.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Added in. Thanks!

    • Volunteer

      I assumed her party affiliation was a given.

      • Daniel

        It usually would be. Palumbo, however, is a Democrat in the RI House; sometimes religious stupidity crosses political lines.

  • Sebjowett

    Watching this unfold from the UK, I, and friends, can only shake our heads in wonder as we watch people of position and responsibility attack a young girl for defending the constitution that they claim they adhere to without question.
    Religion and politics should never be combined, and the constitution, I am informed by my wife who studied it at University as part of her doctorates course in history, was designed to keep the two separate.
    Ultimately it has clearly failed on this part.
    Jessica, and those like her, need to keep their heads held high and stand for what is right.

    • Tim

      doesn’t every US person taking public office sware to uphiold the constitution?  (unlike here where they pledge loyalty to HM the Queen)

  • Lippy

    I find it interesting that the Senator considers the phrasing of putting one’s foot in one’s mouth, a phrase meaning to say something stupid or ignorant, a threat……where over in London, when a religious fanatic uses the phrase hunt down, a phrase with implicit aggressive and violent overtones, the police say it is not a threat.  Just food for thought.

  • The Other Weirdo

    What’s with the Valley Girl-speak? You’d think a Senator would have better command of the English language.

    • OkayWithThe

      To be completely fair, I sound like a (male) valley girl on voice mails too. There’s something uncomfortable about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Croteau/100000139232445 David Croteau

    Just found the Screenshot of when she tried to bring Ann Coulter into it. Saying how Jessica could be used as the best example of  ”Fake Liberal Victimization.” not to mention that radio host implying Jessica worships Satan. 

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/404/40826031210971891681316.jpg/

  • Anonymous

    I guess it wasn’t worded in the clearest way, but it does sound like she is turning this all into an attack on her, when she initiated the insults. still, I hope no one actually was threatening her – though she certainly hasn’t gotten anything like what Jessica has received.

  • Gus Snarp

    Just a thought on screen grabs of Twitter comments. There kind of a pain because there’s usually so much left out, tweets from other people that are related, retweets, and most of all, any sense of time. If all we have is a screen grab that says “2 minutes ago”, then we have no idea two minutes from when. Now I think the Senator’s comments were pretty idiotic, and I’m still amazed that an elected official, even at the state level, in this country, let alone Rhode Island, given its history, can be so ignorant of the First Amendment. I also have seen no sign of any hateful or threatening tweets directed at the Senator. But I can’t for the life of me put this all together into any kind of narrative that makes sense. I hate this about Twitter. Maybe Storify would help? At any rate, it would be nice to have all the relevant tweets in order with a time stamp. I don’t think the Senator’s got any kind of an argument in her favor here, and the problem starts with her when she first made the ACLU comment, there was no context of what these hateful messages she was getting were. In her case, I think she wanted it that way, because she’s clearly just playing a game of political pandering to her right wing religious base.

    TL;DR: 

    Senator Moura is a disgrace, insulting a child to win political points and making grandiose claims about hate speech and threats without evidence, but man are Twitter bad for documenting a conversation of any kind. If ever there’s an actually questionable case it would be nice to have a better way to document these things.

    • Gus Snarp

      That should say: “…but Twitter screen grabs are bad for documenting…”. Man am I bad at editing my comments before posting. I ate subject/verb disagreement. Or is Twitter a plural noun in this context?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

        better yet, what is the past tense of a twit? Twat?

    • http://twitter.com/Mowgli3 Sarah

      She deleted her twitter almost immediately after the police comment, so we were only able to get a quick twitter screenshot. Read from the bottom up.

  • http://twitter.com/ologies LOLogies

    Hey, you might consider adding a disclaimer after “digging herself into a deeper hole”. I’d hate to see the good Senator confuse your common idiomatic expression for an insinuation that she is literally using a shovel to go underground and call the FBI.
    :)

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

    Jessica’s father wants us all to stop fighting back against local figures who verbally attack Jessica.

    Mark John Ahlquist:
    First, let me say once again how incredibly proud I am of my daughter. I also want to thank everyone for supporting her in this challenging time. You guys have made a real difference for her and our family and I am eternally grateful for that.
    As far as the future of this group, I’d like to give my two cents. Personally, I’d like to see us all move past the sniping with those local figures who are entrenched in their ideas. This group is above that.
    Let’s instead move on to other social justice issues. We have here assembled quite a team, let’s build something. Let’s celebrate this (probable) win a little less, and start thinking about the next game. Sound good?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

      We should respect the wishes of Jessica and her family. While it is true it is OUR fight, it is also true that Jessica was the catalyst and keystone that brought the win in the first place.

      Leave the snipes and snips to the “Glen Beck” types, and let us concentrate on keeping our side of the street clean and continue fighting the good fight.

  • Rich Samuels

    Oh come on. We saw the other day she’d never heard the cliché about fighting a battle of wits against unarmed opponents (paraphrased). She probably thinks ‘idiom’ is an insult. 

    I’d say she’s been living under some kind of rock but I don’t want her to interpret that as my advocating she be stoned to death and end up getting my ass extradited.

  • Michael

    Aww, she doesn’t have a wikipedia article…

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      You have the power.

      • Michael

        Yes but I couldn’t possibly come up with enough information on her not to make it into a page obviously about this action.

  • Tminuspi

    Beth Moura: Thousand-dollar face, and a ten-cent brain.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/James-Sweet/1280927267 James Sweet

    I guess I can see how the foot/mouth comment was misinterpreted…  still a Facepalm-y moment though.  Ugh.

  • T-Rex

    I rarely ever  thump my atheist chest or push my views, especially on FB, but I had to share this story. I also added a nice comment about the morality, stupidity and ignorance regarding religion. Just couldn’t bite my tongue any more as my mouth was filling up with blood. No one has had the balls to leave a comment about it yet though.  I’m so fucking sick of religion and the idiots that push their beliefs. I haven’t been very active in the past when it comes to atheist issues as I live in a diverse area where I don’t have to deal with stuff like this very often. But shit like this makes my blood boil. In fact it’s made me want to become more active in causes and issues involving religion and the bigotry and ignorance it cultivates. Theocrats now have one more voice to contend with. Congratulations Senator Bitch.

  • TheExpatriate700

    Rep. Moura is an embarrassment to herself and her state. If she has any class, she should resign.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    The contrast is pretty instructive: Jessica Ahlquist, a teenager attending high school, stood up for the Constitution with the support of only her family and a few friends, received a flood of actual hate mail and vicious threats, and didn’t even flinch. Beth Moura, a state senator with (apparently) the support of a majority of people in the region, received one Tweet which she misinterpreted as a threat, and had a full-scale freak-out, contacted the police, and deleted her account.

  • Wintermute

    Ah, the old ‘you can’t criticize me because freedom of speech’ argument, my second favorite bit on Constitutional stupidity.

    See, Beth, we’re not the government, so that whole First Amendment thing doesn’t really apply to us. And if if it DID, you’re free to express you’re opinion–you’re not free to be a dumbass and not get called on it.

    How does somebody who doesn’t get this get to be a politician? She ought to be thrown out of office for being too stupid to understand the oath she took.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roccim Marlo Rocci

    another flawless victory.    The Ahlquist Army wins another one.


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