by Jesse Galef -
Perhaps I’d gotten too cynical, but I didn’t see this good turn of events coming. As announced yesterday, religious leaders in Cranston, Rhode Island stepped up to defend Jessica and speak out against the hateful comments, the bullying, and the threats.
Here were the rapid reactions I jotted down as I watched:
- Yes, like you, I cringed every time the news anchors opened their mouths to talk about the case. I would have loved it if they actually stated facts as facts: The banner was unconstitutional. We can cite the judge’s authority. Some threats were death threats. They were made publicly. There’s no reason to make them sound like allegations, they’re facts viewers should know.
- I’m a bit confused about what the clergy was trying to say by comparing Jessica as a prophet.
- I’m ever so glad that someone is condemning the death threats because they still hope Jessica will come to faith. (Yes, that was my sarcastic face.)
- When Jessica used the phrase “I already won the lawsuit — and fairly so,” I couldn’t help but start grinning. I’m not sure why, but the way she slipped it in was perfect. For some reason, that was left out of the WPRI transcript online.
- I also loved the way Rev. Gene Dyszlewski called out the “radio demagoguery.” Damn straight. It WAS toxic and harmful.
- It would have been nice to hear a defense of the separation of church and state, though the press release mentions that they “speak in support of Jessica Ahlquist’s right to challenge the banner at Cranston High School West.” Perhaps that didn’t make it into the two minutes of air time.
Overall, I’m really glad to see this press conference happen. True, the bar wasn’t set very high. It would be a sad day indeed if religious moderates wouldn’t come out in favor of the Constitution and against death threats to 16-year-old girls.
Jessica’s case has been deeply polarizing in her community — but at least we’re finding out which “pole” the religious moderates are closer to. It brought together 18 leaders: Baptists and UU’s, Jews and Muslims, all coming together to defend an atheist from violence. We atheists often say that we need the religious moderates to be on our side, condemning the extremists. This is a start.