Atheists Beat the Illinois Family Institute At Their Own Game

Alright. Spill it. Which of you naughty atheists used a Christian group’s faux grassroots-anger email system to send letters of support to schools that brought in Jessica Ahlquist to speak to the students?

Because Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute is ever-so-pissed about it:

Today, an unusual number of atheists from around the country have used our Take Action system to voice their support to those schools that invited teen atheist Jessica Ahlquist to speak on constitutional issues. Since our typical audience is not composed of atheists, I suspected Hemant Mehta, the “Friendly Atheist,” and [high school] math teacher might be behind their efforts. Surprise, surprise, Mehta has posted yet another piece that misses, obscures, or twists the central points of my article.

*Hemant bows*

I know, I know, sometimes when I quote Higgins verbatim, it makes her look really bad.

The bulk of the article isn’t about me, though. It’s about how Higgins defends distorting the comments of the Citizen Advocacy Center representative who brought Jessica in to speak.

In short, the CAC said Jessica would be speaking about her experience dealing with a First Amendment lawsuit (including the bullying she experienced and why this fight was necessary even though it was unpopular). In addition, attorneys from the CAC would be present at all her talks to shed light on the more technical aspects of the First Amendment, something most college students (much less a 17-year-old) couldn’t give you a nuanced explanation about.

So Higgins took all that to mean the CAC was saying Jessica was unqualified to speak about the First Amendment, and therefore the school officials were liars, and therefore yadda yadda yadda homosexuality liberal agenda.

Good times.

(I suspect the CAC will responds with a statement of their own soon enough.)

I had a chance to see Jessica while she was in town last night, by the way. She told me her talks at the schools went incredibly well despite IFI’s attempts to get their member all angry about it. I think it energized her to speak at schools where she was seen as a brave young woman who took a hit for a larger cause instead of as an evil little thing just trying to ruin everybody’s good time.

Thanks to all of you who sent emails and made phone calls to administrators yesterday on Jessica’s behalf. When there’s obvious support for these kinds of events, the school districts are far less likely to ever cave in to IFI’s demands.

Side note: I think I may dedicate my forthcoming book on high school atheists to Laurie Higgins for being such an inspiration to me. What do you think?

***Update***: The Elmurst Patch features one angry parent, Nancy Cramblit, saying this about Jessica’s appearance:

“Everyone on my email list thinks it’s disgusting, ridiculous and definitely a leftist move,” Cramblit said of bringing Ahlquist to the district.

Take THAT, damn hippie Communists and your liberal “agenda” of anti-bullying and standing up for the First Amendment…

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.

  • Where Are My Beets?

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of bigots.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JBAMPHNDKNSKDNVTY3VRYGWMYQ Jack

    IFI would have gotten away with their stupidity too, if it weren’t for you meddling atheists.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      …..and your dog!

      • CelticWhisper

         I’ll start my own amusement park!  With meddling atheists!  And dogs!

        • http://www.everydayintheparkwithgeorge.com/ Matt E

          The Creation Museum beat you to it. We just need to send more meddling atheists with dogs there. 

        • nakedanthropologist

          Quickly skeptics – to the doubt dinghy!

      • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.white.5492 Kevin White

         Roooby-Doooby- Doooo!!!

        • Michael

          Have a godless snack.

          • Drew M.

             Is that like a pilfered communion wafer?

      • Jonas

        I’ll get you – My little Atheist. — And your Mangy little dog too. 

  • Connie

    Hemant, since you changed to this format, the articals are much shorter. So short that sometimes I don’t understand the jist of the story. Where is the “bulk ” of the article? And what “hit” did she take for what “larger cause”? Sorry to be so dense. I do wish you’d go back to your former format. Connie

    • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

      Apologies, but in this case I think it was taken that since Jessica’s story had so much national attention that everyone would know what he was talking about.

    • michael both

      I’d be guessing the format of this blog is determined by patheos themselves, not the individual bloggers. I’m not a fan of the revised format either, but still come for the content. :)

      • Anonymous Atheist

        The truncated teasers appearing on the home page rather than the full articles is entirely Hemant’s choice. There was a discussion about this in some post’s comments a couple weeks ago when he made the switch. He earns more money when more people click through to a full article’s page, than when they can see multiple articles in full on the home page without further clicks.

        • Drew M.

           I missed that discussion. Now this format doesn’t bother me anymore; I’m all for Hemant getting paid.

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Especially when the ads are all from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints :-)

    • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

      I prefer shorter articles, as I have trouble reading…even this one is a little long, but if it involves Hemant pissing off the IFI I gotta read that.  Some blog posts are short books…I only have so many hours in my day to catch up on all this important news…if I can’t get the jist after a minute or two of reading, I move on.  This article could be summed up as…

      The IFI, which was pissed off because Jessica Alquist was talking to HS students (Jessica Alquist being the one who got the prayer banner removed from her RI school), had a form on their website to send emails to the schools she was speaking at, and *gasp* some people used the forms to send message of support to the schools…the IFI had a bigger fit.  Also, Hemant got to hang out with Jessica and some lady thinks all her friends agree with her that bullying is okay.  Done.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      I’m not a fan of it either. I only read FA on my tablet now because the mobile format is much less cluttered. Also, when in doubt, the blue linked text usually goes to source articles or previous blog posts so you can catch up. Hope that helps a little bit.

    • FSMfan

       A bit more history. Jessica won a court case challenging the display of a religious banner in her school (First Amendment grounds – “larger cause”) and consequently received numerous rape/death threats and bullying at school (the hit). She’s a hero in my mind.

  • Michael

    Timothy Brannen and Lauren according to the previous thread.

  • http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/ Timothy Brannan

    Cool.  
    I suggested this when the article was posted and then went to facebook with it too.    Glad to see people got under her skin!!

    • Sindigo

      *Claps* :)

  • Kahomono

     
    Side note: I think I may dedicate my forthcoming book on high school atheists to Laurie Higgins for being such an inspiration to me. What do you think? 

     

    You should totally do that.  Her head will.  Literally.  Explode.

    (Anticipating a certain type of response to this comment: http://xkcd.com/1108/ )

    • Coyotenose

       I will. Literally. Respond to your comment.

    • nakedanthropologist

      And then we can all send her thank you letters for showing us the light – how her bigotry convinced us of our atheism – oh, the fun to be had.  I really despise that woman.

    • Michael

      I could believe her head would literally explode. Too much hate will do that.

    • Drew M.

       I’m envisioning a smell of burning fat and a wet pop when she finds out, so I have no problems with “literally” here.

  • http://twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    I think Ms. Higgins at the very least deserves a personalized autographed copy of the new book.   

  • http://twitter.com/ReasJack Jack Jesberger

    Get their member all angry…best typo ever

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com/ Ubi Dubium

      I don’t think that was a typo!

      • AxeGrrl

        Perhaps Jack meant “best unintended-and-odd sexual innuendo ever” ;)

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

      Who said it was a typo? :)

      • eonL5

        Aww and I was just going to ask about that. Dang.

        Oh and lolx10

      • CelticWhisper

         Zing!

      • amycas

        Either it’s a weird sexual innuendo, or you’re implying they only have one member (that of Laurie Higgins). I like it either way.

    • onamission5

      So I wasn’t the only one who noticed that and had lulz!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Nope, you’re not. Had a good chuckle over it myself.

  • EivindKjorstad

    They’re still wrong, of course. (the default for them).

    You see, it wasn’t atheists from “around the country” who borrowed their system to send messages of support in favour of Jessica. It was atheists from around the *world*. Atleast I know for a fact that atleast one Norwegian, one German and one Japanese, did.

    Like all forces of darkness, they’re afraid of the light. Having their statements and actions scrutinized in public, under the glaring sun, is their biggest fear. Mine is put a tiny lamp, but we’re many, and we’re neither looking away, nor forgetting.

  • Martin

    I used their email system, but I never mentioned atheism, I just used it to tell the school I support their choice of Jessica for pro – Constitution anti bullying.  

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      But obviously anyone who disagrees with them must be an atheist.  And therefor not a ‘real’ opinion worth considering.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Any time a bigot starts whining, you know you’re doing the right thing

    • Artor

      But they whine even if you don’t do anything.

    • Coyotenose

       Every time a bigot whines, an atheist on babies dines.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

         Bigots’ tears make the best sauce.

  • Helanna

    I do love this arch rival/nemesis thing you’ve got going on, or at least that Higgins thinks is going on. Does she think you scour her every word in order to twist it to make her look like the bad guy? Also, clearly this show of support is all your fault. You and your atheist cronies sent all those support letters! Because obviously atheists aren’t capable of showing support on their own, somebody must’ve told them to do it JUST to annoy Higgins. 

    • PietPuk

       Yeah, does she think Hemant is some kind of PZ Myers?

      • amycas

         What should Hemant’s minions be called then??

        • Falconer33

          Polyinomials?

        • PietPuk

           What should Hemant’s minions be called then??

          Oew, that’s a hard one.
          ‘Heminions’?’Little friendlies’?
          No….. ‘Evil little things’.. 

          • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

            Non-praying ‘Mantises.

        • Coyotenose

           Mehtheads.

          • Drew M.

             I like this one.

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Mehta-heads, perhaps? Though that conjures images of the whole lot of us headbanging to some rockin’ tunes.

          • amycas

            This one wins. I’m a Mehthead. Are you a Mehthead?

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

           “The He-Mant Bigot-Haters Club.”

    • http://twitter.com/butterflyfish_ Heidi McClure

       It’s so entertaining how much she hates Hemant, isn’t it? LOL. He’s doing a great job.

  • PJB863

    This article doesn’t appear on their website, however.  Interesting.  Probably because it makes Higgins look like an ass (not that that’s really very difficult to do).

  • Allison

    Does anybody else think that she’s super adorable?   :)

    • Artor

      Jessica Ahlquist? Hell yeah! 

    • Drew M.

      Oh god, my first thought was Higgins. O.o

  • jose

    Standing up for the constitution is leftist now! O, America…

  • Grizzz

    Nice. I have been pissed at you lately Hemant, but this certainly helps!

    Way to go team and Jessica.

    And Hemant, no do not dedicate the book to her. As a published author of two books, I can say that I wish I had thought thoruoughly about who I dedicated the first one to as it was done in haste and I regret the decision. Think it out before you commit to the dedication.

    • amycas

       Well, I’m sure Hemant will be glad to know that he’s got the approval of some random stranger on the internet.

  • Pascale Laviolette

    Hemant, you have really nice teeth.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    “Everyone on my email list thinks it’s disgusting”… and I’m sure that’s a list of great minds, forward thinking visionaries, and intellectual giants….

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

    Surprise, surprise, Mehta has posted yet another piece that misses, obscures, or twists the central points of my article.

    You mean like how Laurie misses, obscures and twists the point of  Citizen Advocacy Center’s lawyer when she wrote a direct quote that was incorrect?

    when I contacted the Citizen Advocacy Center who invited Ahlquist, paid for her flights and hotel, and offered her to these three schools, I was told that since Ahlquist is only 17 years old, “she won’t be able to speak articulately on the First Amendment issues”

    Followed quickly by said lawyer coming on Hemant’s article to point out…

    Hi.  I am Maryam Judar, a community lawyer at Citizen Advocacy Center … For the record, I never said that Jessica Ahlquist was inarticulate when I spoke with Laurie Higgins at the Illinois Family Institute.

  • onamission5

    “IFI’s attempts to get their member all angry about it”

    You did that on purpose, didn’t you. LOL.

  • smg77

    Any Laurie Higgins is upset about atheists is a good day.

  • Coyotenose

    Eeheeheeheeheeheehee!  Heeheeheeheeheeheehaaaaahahahahahaha!

    Okay… I’m okay, I’m done, I… hahahahahahaaahaha! Hee.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Well  done mes amis!  Et pour vous Mme. Higgins: your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.  I am Take Action!

  • Banderson61

    I would have been impressed if she could have been bipartisan
    with this issue surrounding the 49 year old poster. Take off Heavenly Father
    and Amen and you have an outline anyone regardless of Faith, belief or Ideology
    could agree with.

    Our
    Heavenly Father.

    Grant us each day the desire to
    do our best.
    To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
    To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
    To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
    Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
    Teach us the value of true friendship.
    Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High
    School West.

    Amen.

    —School Prayer, Cranston High School WestGrant
    us each day the desire to do our best. (Everyone wants that
    To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. (A great goal
    To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. (Teamwork
    To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. (Integrity
    Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. (Collaboration
    Teach us the value of true friendship. (Interdependence
    Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High
    School West. (Pride of our school

     

  • Banderson61

    I would have been impressed if she could have been bipartisan
    with this issue surrounding the 49 year old poster. Take off Heavenly Father
    and Amen and you have an outline anyone regardless of Faith, belief or Ideology
    could agree with.Our
    Heavenly Father.

    Grant us each day the desire to
    do our best.
    To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
    To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
    To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
    Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
    Teach us the value of true friendship.
    Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High
    School West.

    Amen.

    —School Prayer, Cranston High School West

    Grant
    us each day the desire to do our best. (Everyone wants that
    To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. (A great goal
    To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. (Teamwork
    To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. (Integrity
    Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. (Collaboration
    Teach us the value of true friendship. (Interdependence
    Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High
    School West. (Pride of our school

     

     

    • nakedanthropologist

      But it wasn’t missing a “heavenly father” and “amen” – it is clearly a Christian prayer banner in a public school that is supposed to be inclusive for people of all faiths.  Not only that, people have gone on the record to say that they were uncomfortable and felt margininalized when the banner went up almost 50 years ago – but they were afraid of the backlack from Christians (those who went on record are Jewish).  Its already a nonpartisan issue: government neutrality on matters of religion protects everybodys’ rights to practice their religions as they see fit.

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

      “Grant us” is still a problem, don’t you think? Who are we asking to grant us with these abilities? A witch? A warlock? A god?

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      From what I recall there were suggestions of a non-religious statement of values, but the religious folks circled their wagons and turned it into some kind of “final stand” and quoted things such as “If we forget that we are a Nation Under God, then we will be a Nation Gone Under!”.  They dug in their heels, and they still think they were right and that the judge was wrong.

    • Drew M.

      If I remember correctly, editing it was one of the proposed actions, but the high school declined.

  • http://www.facebook.com/abb3w Arthur Byrne

    As a bit of a digression, one of the comments at the Elmhurst Patch article claims York does make students aware of intelligent design after their Evolution course. That could be “some people prefer bogus psuedoscience, like Intelligent Design”, or could be “the alternate theory of Intelligent Design looks on the verge of supplanting Darwinian Evolution”. Or in between. Someone local might want to look into the details on that.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Or Rick Perry “In Texas we teach both theories!”

      • coyotenose

         Meteorology AND Rain Prayin’!

        …if only that were a joke.

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

    Hey….every superhero needs their evil nemesis….. step up Higgins

    As for Nancy Cramblit – well I take it she is the shabby little mud slinger who posted the stuff about the lawyer getting pinched for weed possession. By their acts shall you know them Nancy…. and you art a scumbag.

  • Heicart

    Good on you, Hemant! This story made me chuckle.


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