Ahlquist in the NYT

Despite being drowned in documentation we’ve heard Cranston residents all the way to Michael Egnor squirm around whether or not Jessica Ahlquist is being bullied/harassed.  Perhaps they could take a peek at a headline from yesterday’s New York Times.

Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer


They say that the truth always comes after the “but”.  To illustrate that point, here’s a Cranston West senior…

Pat McAssey, a senior who is president of the student council, said the threats were “completely inexcusable”…


…but added that Jessica had upset some of her classmates by mocking religion online.

“Their frustration kind of came from that,” he said.

Yes, her classmates may have been upset by Jessica mocking religion.  So what?  Pat should have stopped at calling the threats inexcusable.  Frustration is “Awwwwwww, I’m offended.”  It’s not “let’s beat her up!”

An alumni of Cranston West jumped in.

“I am more of a constitutionalist…”


“…but find myself strangely on the other side of this,” said Donald Fox, a 1985 graduate of Cranston West. “The prayer banner espouses nothing more than those values which we all hope for our children, no matter what school they attend or which religious background they hail from.”

“I follow the Constitution, but…”  But what?  It’s ok to ignore it sometimes?  It’s not ok to break the law when it suits you?

The banner does express more than good values.  If it was all about the values, the school would’ve agreed to remove the religious wording and keep the values when the ACLU made them that offer.  They didn’t.

And the judge ruled that the banner was sectarian, so it doesn’t apply to people with any religious background.  “Our heavenly father” and “Amen” are completely out of place to a Hindu, for instance.

Brittany Lanni, who graduated from Cranston West in 2009, said that no one had ever been forced to recite the prayer and called Jessica “an idiot.”

Because nobody’s ever been forced to recite it means that the government is not endorsing sectarian religion?  Um…no?

And she calls Jess an idiot right before dropping this logic bomb.

“If you don’t believe in that,” she said, “take all the money out of your pocket, because every dollar bill says, ‘In God We Trust.’ ”

Yeah, if you think decades of precedent, the judge’s decision, and the Constitution are worth upholding, then you’ll stop using money.  Brilliant.  What about the Christians who decided they wanted to pay rent and buy food before we added ‘In God We Trust’ to our money in 1956?  Were they also hypocrites for having basic needs?

Now, I pride myself at being fairly quick with my ability to come up with one-liner rebuttals, but…I could still learn something from Jessica.

Does she empathize in any way with members of her community who want the prayer to stay?

“I’ve never been asked this before,” she said. A pause, and then: “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.”

After years of writing and speaking I would kill to be able to come up with stuff like that on the spot.  Jessica is exceptional for my age, let alone hers.

Jessica standing in an empty parking lot she uses to hold all the shits she gives.


About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • http://www.danafredsti.com dana

    I’d also like to point out that “in God We Trust” was added to our money in the ’50s during the whole McCarthy Red Scare era. Not one of our country’s finest times either.

  • http://willisweb.com CoderHead

    That was beautiful.

  • Zinc Avenger

    Any future baby girl in my house will have Jessica as a middle name in the hope some of that courage is inspired in her.

  • MikeMa

    The young woman has shown exceptional wit, wisdom and strength. The dimwittedness of her adversaries detracts nothing from that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheITGuyKevin kevinwells

    Since you didn’t appear to have posted a link to the original article, here it is. Strong words from a strong woman.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Bah, fixed. Thanks!

  • Duke

    I love what you’re expressing, but you might want to rewrite the caption to the photo. It could be construed as labeling her promiscuous.

  • plutosdad

    Every time I see her speak or read quotes from her I am impressed. Most people are not as well spoken and considerate as her, of any age.

  • Randomfactor

    Hey, JT, your blog got a shout-out on the ProJo blogs today. High Fives All Around! ;)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Link me? :) Thanks! *high five returned*

  • John Phillips, FCD

    If a grandchild of mine had even half the courage and smarts that young woman has, I would be a very proud grandfather indeed. This world needs more of her ilk, lots and lots more.

  • Harrison

    I saw a kid wearing one of those “This shirt is illegal in 51 countries” shirts. I thought Jess’s picture was a bit fitting… http://i.imgur.com/LR9VW.jpg

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      And the meme train leaves the station…

  • DaveL

    Her analogy may be more apt than she realizes. Today’s parents, having never lost a childhood friend or sibling to whooping cough, measles, polio, etc. are now starting to reject vaccination in increasing numbers. Likewise, the separation of church and state has been an effective enough bulwark against religious oppression that many Christians forget why they instituted it in the first place, and now call for its rescission.

  • http://www.yagottamoo.com Matt Meeks

    If my 7 year old daughter grows up to half this courageous, well-spoken, tough and smart, I’ll be an even prouder father than I already am.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    “If you don’t believe in that,” she said, “take all the money out of your pocket, because every dollar bill says, ‘In God We Trust.’ ”

    “In God We Trust” only ended up on the money because pious hypocrites pushed for it and spineless politicians didn’t have the guts to vote against it.
    Which is why you should fight back against even the most innocuous attempts to push religion into the public sphere. And proves that what Jessica did is the only right thing to do.

  • BethE

    But when it was moved to msnbc.com, the title changed. It became “Atheist teen forces school to remove prayer from wall after 49 years”. That’s more biased, to me.

    • Forbidden Snowflake

      Not biased, but simply false, since if anyone “forced” the school to do anything, it was the judge, not Ahlquist. It’s possible to be biased, yet factual, but this isn’t even it.