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.