Thanks for bringing your displeasure to my blog

Oh my.  Someone by the name of Benito Ramirez is displeased with Jessica Ahlquist and made his thoughts known on a post I made about her.

Never mind that the city of Cranston was founded by Protestants.

Are protestants not bound by the law?

Never mind that this “unsightly” prayer that just “had” to be removed was written by a 13 year old, as a gift nonetheless.

Does that make it legal?

Never mind that the prayer itself portrays the desire to do your best and grow mentally and physically.

Which is why nobody takes issue with those parts.  Stop acting like they do.  It also contains Christian terminology that constituted government entanglement with religion.  That’s the issue.  Nothing else.

Never mind that the prayer challenges an individual to be kind, helpful and honest.

Nobody takes issue with those parts.  Stop acting like they do.  Do you say of thieves, “Never mind that he sent his mom a Christmas card every year” to excuse their thievery?

Never mind that it implies to teach good sportsmanship and friendship.

Yes, it implores people to lose with grace.  It was clearly ineffective.

Jessica Ahlquist stopped believing in God at age 10, and we’re to then assume that she is an atheist.

That’s what we call people who don’t believe in god, yes.

She subsequently, sought to remove a prayer sign several years later from the walls of her school. So other than the 100% ostensibly positive nature of the message, she probably gives issue to the specific words “prayer”, “heavenly father” and “amen”; if you read the sign, you’ll see those are the only words with any religious implications.

First, the message is not 100% positive.  Read the ruling.  It marginalizes a group of citizens in the eyes of the government.  That’s not positive.

Second, yes, those words as endorsed by the government are the illegal part.  There is no grey area here.  This has been affirmed and reaffirmed through decades of court cases.  If the school board in Cranston elects to appeal, they will lose an open and shut case again.

It takes a special type of person to seek to exclude an entirely positive message just because they disagree with less than 5% of the words used.

Jessica and her lawyers offered to drop their case if the board removed the illegal parts.  The school board refused.  Benito implies a deep level of concern about this case, but that concern has clearly been insufficient to move him to read the judge’s decision.

The trouble with Jessica’s quest to remove this prayer from public view is that it completely invalidates her “belief” or lack of belief in God. Jessica fails to realize that by increasingly giving voice to her non-belief by removing messages of belief, simply gives others an alternative reason to choose religion.

She’s not trying to remove the prayer from public view.  They could take it to literally any privately owned building and Jessica would give less than a shit.  The issue is having it on the wall of a government building.

And yes, it riles up the believers who come out in force.  Thankfully, all the angry racket in the world does not make them above the law.

Is she worried that others might choose religion because they read this sign?

No.  She’s worried about government entanglement with religion.  She has said this repeatedly and it’s the grounds upon which the judge granted her victory.  You can keep trying to reach inside her skull and produce some other motivation, Benito, but it’s irrelevant.  The motivation she claims was deemed just in a court of law (and not by a small margin).

If that is the case…

It’s not.  Obviously so.

…then the act is pointless. If there is no God or heaven, then it doesn’t matter what religions other people choose to believe in.

Wrong!  Religions tell people it’s ok to be irrational.  It’s not.  It causes 21st century people to abide by moral standards that should’ve died in their parent centuries, such as discrimination against LGBT people.  What people believe determines their actions – actions that affect their neighbors.  And so the religious beliefs of others are of tremendous consequence to me, to Jessica, and to everybody who believes reason is necessary for a better world.

Therefore the sign is meaningless from a religious standpoint.

Curious, then, why those supporting it seem to be universally religious and invoke religious language.  Equally curious that when offered the chance to keep the banner minus the religious language the school board refused.

The idea that the banner is meaningless in terms of religion is unmitigated bullshit.

Removing it simply accentuates is defining purpose.

Losing with grace?

Is she is worried because it conflicts with her direct sensibilities?

In the sense that it means the government is marginalizing her?  Yes.  That conflicts with my sensibilities as well.  It should conflict with yours, Benito.

Then she is simply an obtuse person who refuses to acknowledge or accept that other people may have an alternative viewpoint to her own.

She realizes other people have different viewpoints.  The problem is that the viewpoint that government buildings can or should hang sectarian religious murals is in conflict with the underlying principles that make America great: that government must be neutral with religion, preserving the rights of Americans to worship without government interference and protecting people from discrimination on the basis of their religion.

Even if Jessica is as obtuse as you claim (even though the judge identified her as an intelligent and articulate young woman), she has managed to grasp this very basic concept where you have not, Benito.

Maybe she should seek to display a message on the walls of her school that she created herself that she can put a positive spin on. Rather than putting a negative spin on something somebody originally created to be positive.

You’re blaming her?  What about the judge who ruled it was illegal?  What about countless courts through the last several decades which produced the precedent that made this ruling an easy one?  It doesn’t matter if the intent of the banner was positive – that doesn’t save it from being illegal.

What’s more, Jessica does not take exception to positive messages.  Once more, she offered the school the chance to keep it by sundering the illegal parts.  They refused.  If keeping the positive message is your aim, Benito, your ire should fall on the school board.  But I’m willing to bet that the “positive message” is useful to you only as a means to keep religion on the wall, legality be damned.

And Jessica is producing a positive message: the government will not endorse one religion over another (or none).  That’s a spectacular message!

People who are disquieted by positive messages can only be expected to try and cause the same feelings of uneasiness and lack of peace in the people around them.

Benito, you are disquieted by the positive message of government neutrality with regards to religion.  This does not cause uneasiness with me.  Combined with your repeated attempts to assign Jessica some motivation beyond her stated motivation and your determination to talk about a situation about which you know very little (having clearly not taken any steps to familiarize yourself with constitutional law or to even read the judge’s decision), your disquiet with a positive message does frustrate and annoy the piss out of me.

So to all those who are outraged by her persistence, understand that, in hindsight, it was simply a foregone conclusion stemming from personal unrest; not about some words on a wall.

Look who’s a psychic!  Ok Benito, I’m thinking of a number between one and a million.  Go!

Jessica has been clear about the cause of her unrest, an unrest shared by atheists the world over as well as the courts that have ruled on similar cases in the past: the illegality of the banner and the marginalization of atheists which the judge ruled were achieved by those words on that wall.

The only people who don’t seem to be concerned with breaking the law or marginalizing a whole class of citizens seem to be the followers of the most loving religion.  Curious, that.

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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.


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