Victory in Cranston

After a roller coaster of a night in which Jessica Ahlquist sat stoic in the back of the auditorium doing what she’s done for the last two years (endured the intimidation tactics of the deeply faithful), the board voted 5-2 not to appeal the original decision.

Good.  Let that scrappy young lady enjoy part of her childhood.

She has made tremendous sacrifices for our cause.  It has cost her years out of her youth, and she parted with those years for every atheist in America.

I know she reads the blog.  If you want to tell her thanks, leave a comment.

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.

  • Grikmeer

    Thanks from an atheist outside America!

  • Taylor Grenga

    Thank you, Jessie!

  • Darrel Ray

    Jessica, you are hero to all of us in the freethought movement. Thank you so much for your courage and perseverance. Your example will give other courage to follow in your footsteps.

  • SS

    Jessica, you truly are a hero. Thank you!

  • Gayle Jordan

    Tennessee chiming in here — Thank you sugar. Thank you.

    • Deepsix

      Gayle, are you also in Murfreesboro?

      • Gayle Jordan

        Yes! Do I know you? Are you part of our Murfreesboro Freethinkers group? We’ll be at the Starbucks on Rutherford Blvd Sunday morning at 11…we have a meetup page under Murfreesboro Freethinkers – check us out!

  • Deojeff

    Thank you from an atheist outside America.

  • John

    Dear Jessica:
    You are an amazingly strong person, and I’ve been impressed by you every time I hear about this. Thanks for standing up for the Constitution.

  • ashleybone

    Thank you Jessica, for standing up to the bullies.

  • Missy

    Way to go Jessica! You are an inspiration for those of us that sometimes feel there is nothing we can do to change things.

  • Chris

    Jessica, you’re a legend.

  • Lou Jost

    Jessica, you are an inspiration. Even some of the pro-banner folks admitted it. Congratulations.

  • Vyckie Garrison

    Congratulations, Jessica – and thank you so much!

    One of my daughters is turning 16 next week – she’s been following your story and is inspired by your courage. She’s requested an “Evil Little Thing” t-shirt for her b-day so she can wear it proudly at her high school. :)

  • annesauer

    Thank you and congratulations!

  • Vascodamus

    You showed everyone that the atheist can be the best in the room. You are a true inspiration, thank you for your sacrifices.

  • Pteryxx

    East Texas here – Thank you for all of this, Jessica. I drove to Bastrop to support Damon Fowler, but Rhode Island was just too dang far.

  • http://NA Todd Armstrong

    Thank you Jessica, you are bravest woman I have ever met.

  • Neil Royal

    Thanks Jessica for fighting the good fight. You are a hero and true American, don’t ever forget that. You stood strong and have something most Christians will never have…eternal life in the annals of history. Congratulations.

  • RWood


    Thank you so much for giving your time to such a worthy cause. You are a courageous young lady.

  • kosk11348

    Very few people, regardless of their age, can say they’ve made a positive impact on their communities. Jessica, Cranston is now a better, more inclusive place because of you. Hold your head high and be proud of what you’ve helped accomplish.

    • Neil Royal

      Here here. :)

  • Liam

    Huzzah! Thank you Jessica for making the right decison when it would have been so much easier just to turn a blind eye!

  • I’m_not

    I suspect we’ll be hearing from you in the future. I certainly hope so. Well done young lady.

  • HJ Hornbeck

    W00T! Excellent work, Jessica, your bravery is a huge inspiration to us all! Look carefully, and you’ll see me saluting you from Soviet Canukistan.

  • TV200

    In 1986 I was 15 years old, and the space shuttle Challenger exploded. When my science teacher suggested that we pray as a class for the astronauts, he asked if anyone objected. I nervously put up my hand to object. It stopped there. There was no prayer. I remember that feeling, standing up as an atheist. saying “Not in a public school” in one classroom. I don’t know if, at that age, I would have had the courage to do what you have done. So, thank you, Jessica. You have shown remarkable courage and poise throughout this whole ordeal. I am looking forward to your talk at the Reason Rally.

  • beerijuana

    Thank you Jessica!

    From a Canadian living below the Mason-Dixon line…

  • Joshua Carlson

    Jessica, from a combat veteran of OIF, you have more courage than I have ever had. Well done young person, well done.

  • Art Vandelay

    Well that was interesting. I guess I’ll never get those brain cells back. Imagine a world where like maybe a quarter of everything said makes sense and it’s met with grunts, moans, and boos, while the rest of the rants are just unintelligible, bigoted nonsense and it’s greeted like their team just won the Super Bowl. Just mind-numbing shit, folks.

    Jess, you are a rock and you do rock. Congratulations.

  • stubby

    Thank you, Jessica. You are a very impressive young woman.

  • Stacy

    Thank you, Jessica. Really. You done good, girl.

  • Savant

    Congratulations Jessica, and thank you! Your praise is well-earned!

  • Michael

    Jessica, thank you. Well done.

  • Bill Anderson

    Vascodamus says:

    You showed everyone that the atheist can be the best in the room. You are a true inspiration, thank you for your sacrifices.

    Neil Royal says:

    Thanks Jessica for fighting the good fight. You are a hero and true American, don’t ever forget that. You stood strong and have something most Christians will never have…eternal life in the annals of history. Congratulations.

    And I totally agree. Thanks, Jessica. And be proud of yourself!

  • Sam Salerno

    Jessica you are a hero to the American people. Our forefathers would have been proud of you. For standing up for our secular constitution you will be remembered forever in the history of the freethinking community. The courage and grace you have shown over these last couple of years is deserving of highest honors. I know you are bound for great things(no pressure there). So I will be keeping my eye out for you.

    Jessica with all the heart felt love I have, I hope the best for your future. Signed: A grateful Atheist Sam Salerno

  • passerby


  • Randomfactor

    Hooray for the good guys winning one. And for Jessica.

  • Celeste

    Jessica, you are truly a hero, one I will be telling all of my children about as they grow up.

  • salo

    Congratulations Jessica! This victory is very well deserved. I was not expecting the board to vote so strongly against appeal, but I can’t say I’m surprised when JT says “The mob is reportedly screaming at the member who cast the fourth vote.” Just remember that there’s a large community of us that supports you.

  • Jarreg


    I just wanted to say thanks. You are a ray of hope in a world that seems hell-bent on ignorance. Way to kick ass.

  • samanthag


    You have shown more of both grace and bravery at the age of 16 than most people ever have to show. Thank you.


  • ScottS

    Thanks, Jessica. If more atheists had the courage and ethical fortitude that you have, America would be a better place.

  • Efogoto

    This is good not just for Cranston, and not just for Rhode Island, but for all the United States. Congratulations from California for this terrific outcome. I must also compliment you on your
    calm demeanor, your steadfast determination, and your unfailing civility throughout this mess. You are wonderful.

  • Echidna

    Because of all this, I have learned some more about US history. Roger Williams would have approved of your struggle. Cheers from Downunder.

  • thztds

    Just one more person here saying thanks. People like you are what makes this country great.

  • TheVirginian


    From a lonely (but not alone) outpost of reason in south Louisiana, congratulations on your victory for truth, justice and the U.S. Constitution way. You are a patriot in the best sense of that word. I hope you do well in the years to come, and you will always be able to look back with pride at making an important contribution to the rights of all Americans, even those who do not understand or accept the principle you fought for. Some day, they might appreciate the importance of the separation of religion and government if they find themselves in an unpopular minority religious situation. Some important victories for this principle were won by religious minorities oppressed by some majority branch of Christianity in this country.

  • sphex

    You have consistently shown such grace, dignity, maturity and basic human decency throughout all this that you are an inspiration to me and I will hold you up as a role model to my children, should I ever have them. I am honored to be on the same side as you, and so excited at the progress that the atheist movement is making. We are moving forward, and things are changing in the culture, in large part because of the efforts of people like you. Thank you.

  • Mike D


    Congratulations and thank you!


    Thank you for supporting her and helping to bring the community’s attention to this nontrivial matter.

    On a lighter note… There needs to be a video of the banner coming down, it should be prefaced with “No Christians were harmed with the removal of this banner.” I think that would be appropriate.

  • Mike de Fleuriot

    While congrats are a good thing for this, what I want to know is what is going to be done about the wound that this has left. We have got rid of the banner, but you all will realise that the banner and it’s meaning is still in the minds of the ignorant at that school.

    There needs to be some follow up education as to why this was done, for those of limited understanding to learn and grow from. Otherwise, it’s a pointless exercise. Anyone got any ideas on how to go about this, or will we be rightly called destroyers of culture and tradition. What will we put in place of this, that is better?

  • meanmike

    Thanks Jessica! You are braver than I. Your courage is inspiring.

  • Peter Cranny

    Hi Jessica – warmest good wishes from here in the UK.
    I can’t even imagine how horrible some people have been to you in the last few weeks since the court verdict, keep smiling!

  • Janee

    Thank you, Jessica, for standing up for equal rights and protection under the constitution. I’m sure it was hard for you, but I hope you’re as proud of yourself as I, and I’m sure other people, are. <3

  • Aliasalpha

    Jessica, you rock!

    Cranston school board, congratulations on finally seeing the glaringly obvious, keep it up.

  • Atheist Alliance International

    Jessica – a huge congratulations from Atheist Alliance International. You stood up for reason and fairness and paid a significant personal price for doing so. You should be very proud. We wish there were more like you. But it would be better if there didn’t need to be.

    Tanya Smith
    AAI President

  • Michael

    Thank you Jessica from the buckle of the bible belt. Thank you for doing what I would never have been able to do at your age. Big *hugs!!

  • Katrin Schwarz

    Jessica you are an inspiration. Congratulations from a supporter in New Zealand.

  • MarkNS

    Thanks from a Canadian, Jessica. You’ve slowed our southern neighbours’ slide into religious barbarism.

  • Gregaryous42

    Hey there little Evil one

    Good onya!! Don’t let the bastards grt you dowm there are lots of us here to support you.

  • jimjudge

    JT & Jessica;

    Sitting here this morning with my 13 y.o. daughter and relishing the fact that I can point to you as examples of what is right! There have been plenty of comments of your courageousness in this battle. I feel that most of us bring this up because we know we couldn’t muster the courage needed at sixteen. Your example will now allow sixteen year olds and sixty year olds all over this country to stand up for what is right.
    I believe wholeheartedly that your demeanor was equally as impressive as your courage.
    Thank you, looking forward, with my daughters, to hearing you at the Reason Rally.


  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Thank you, Jessica, for following the example of Roger Williams.

  • Stephanie Zvan

    Jessica, as a descendent of one of the original European settlers of Rhode Island, I thank you for carrying on their legacy, with all the burdens it entails. You done good.

  • Cathryn

    I’m so glad the board decided not to pursue the court case! What a relief!
    Congratulations, Jessica!

  • Paul Neubauer

    Well done, Jessica!

  • ambassadorfromverdammt

    Well done, Jessica. You Rock!

  • Richard

    Jessica, my thanks from Massachusetts!

  • Slinky’s Human

    Thanks, Jessica. You’ve been a terrific representative for rationality and the rule of law.

  • John Eberhard

    Arkansas here. Your dignity and courage have been beyond words. You are a patriot and your sacrifices for your country are deeply appreciated.

  • David

    I am in awe at your courage.

  • Greg du Pille

    Auckland NZ here. Congratulations on a hard job very well done. Though some might claim the victory was “all about the dollars and cents in the end”, the truth is that they realised they lost and lost badly.

    So glad to see that Reason has such an able new champion.

  • Rox

    Victory for sanity! Congrats Jessica – you are a shining example to all.

  • briandurden

    Greetings from Florida, Jessica. You make us hopeful for the next generation of us all. This country needs more people like you. Thank you!

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Thank you Jessica! And thank you to all of Jessica’s supporters, especially her friends who, no doubt, endured abuse as well but stayed strong in support of a great friend.

    You have done this not just for all the atheists in America, but for all Americans. We are all better off when the constitution is upheld.

  • Jim

    *De-lurking for important occasion*

    This news has made my day, congrats Jessica!

    The religious bullies probably aren’t going to get the hint that their beliefs don’t need to be backed by the government, but hopefully some of us have been inspired by what Jessica has done. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking, but would it be too much to hope that this is the start of something bigger?

    I don’t even live in America, but i’d be very happy to see people standing up to schools etc, and judges ruling in the same way as this because of this decision.

  • BCPA_Lady (now appearing in MN!)

    *slow clap*

    Jessica, thank you for standing up for the Constitution. Your courage and grace under fire, despite vocal (and often vicious) opposition is an inspiration to all.

  • TGAP Dad

    As a father of two high school graduates, and an incoming high schooler in the class of 2016, thank you, Jessica. I had to intervene on my children’s behalf a number of times when they were harassed (sometimes by the teachers themselves) over their refusal to recite or stand for the pledge, bible reading assignments for English class, and related incidents.
    I know I wouldn’t have had the courage or support to do what you have done, or endure what your own community has meted out to you. Consequently, I never accomplished what you have. Congratulations, and well done. And my heartfelt thanks.

  • rutty

    My daughter is only two and I hope that she shows even a tenth of the tenacity, integrity and intelligence that Jessica has shown during this whole thing.

    You’ve been a true role model to young people everywhere and shown immense grace under pressure.

    Nicely done :)

  • Sarah

    From a former Rhode Islander (N. Prov & Lincoln): Thank you, Jessica!

  • Ed S.

    Thank You, Jessica. And also your family and all those who stand with you.

  • Ann

    Thank you, congratulations. You’ve grown with this challenge, and are such an inspiration to this old lady!

  • bcoppola

    Thank you for courageously and gracefully taking a stand for freedom of (as well as from) religion. They’re the same thing of course – can’t have one without the other. Too bad so many in Cranston and the world at large don’t recognize it.

  • Rory

    Jessica, even if I didn’t agree with your position (which I most assuredly do) I would have to admire the courage, grace, and decency with which you’ve conducted yourself in the past few years. You’ve shown more principle than people far older than you, and I hope that this victory allows you to move on with your head held high toward the bigger and brighter things that are surely in your future. Whatever else you do in life, you’ll know that when the time came to stand up for your principles, you did not falter.

  • anthonyallen

    Congratulations, Jessica! You are truly a credit to us all.

  • MadScutter

    Thanks Jessica! You really rock. I know I’d never have done this at your age.

    (In fairness, in those dark, pre-internet days I was under the assumption that being an atheist was something you should keep to yourself so as to not spook the locals.)

  • carpenterman

    Miss Ahlquist, I thank and admire you. I feel much better about the future of our country knowing there are young people with your courage and conviction. I will wear my “Evil Little Thing” shirt with pride.

  • David

    You’re truly an inspiration,a true American and a believer of our Constitution unlike the religious freaks in Cranston,R.I.


  • kmhughes


    Many thanks. You are extremely brave to have done this and are an inspiration to everyone.

    I need to wear my Evil Little Thing shirt today.

  • noastronomer


    You are an inspiration to us all. To stand up and tell the truth when everyone around you is yelling at you to sit down and shut up, that is true courage.

    Michael Watts

  • Mr.Kosta

    Congrats from a southern Europe atheist, Jessica.

    You’ve shown more integrity and bravery during these years than all of those whining christian bullies combined.

  • Joe Geiger


    The title True American Hero gets used all too often these days — however, if ever someone embodied what that means, it is you. Thanks much for your bravery, sacrifice, determination, and integrity. You are an inspiration and will not be forgotten.

    Joe Geiger

  • Minneapostate

    Congratulations, Jessica! The courage and poise you displayed in the face of the ridiculous onslaught you endured is–and will continue to be–an inspiration for freethinkers everywhere. I am so proud of you!

  • Carol Eberhard

    Thank you, Jessica! Your bravery and commitment are an inspiration to all! Hugs!

  • Flimsyman

    Jessica, you’ve already stood up for freedom a hundred times more, just in high school, than most people do in their entire lives. You’ve shown more maturity and courage over the last few years than most people ever do.

    You’re a real hero.

  • Johnny Vector

    Thank you from the Washington, DC area.

  • grumpyoldfart

    I’ll bet the school board is trying to figure some way to turn the blank wall space into some sort of religious shrine.

    “This, dear children, is where the school prayer used to be – feel free to spend a moment in quiet contemplation as you reflect upon its removal.”

  •!/Erulora Erulóra Maikalambe


    You’re an amazing young woman. Few would have the strength to do what you have done. I wish more people understood the absolute necessity for people like you in this country.

    Thank you.

    Erulóra (an atheist in Kansas)

  • angertherabbit


    You have been, and continue to be, a subject of hope and praise around our family dinner table. Your bravery and indomitable spirit are inspirational and your story has led my four-year-old to begin to understand what courage really means. Thank you from Califonia.

  • ottod

    I’ve been following this, and I’ve taken unjustified vicarious pride and satisfaction from Jessica’s persistence and courage. Best wishes, congratulations, and I know we’ll hear more from her in the future.

  • Dogma is Awesome

    Jessica, I’m wearing my “evil little thing” shirt in honor of you. Personally, I can’t wait for you to go off to college somewhere that shares your respect for free thought and reason. I imagine you’ll do very well indeed once you can stop wasting time and resources fighting the angry, uneducated mob in your hometown.

    Your courage and perserverance are inspiring. Bravo!

    • Dogma is Awesome

      To clarify, I don’t think that your battle was a waste of time; it’s simply a battle that should not have been necessary in the first place!

  • kirk


    You’ve seen people at their worst even as you’ve been an example of people at their best. You’re going to have to deal with irrationality all your life, but hopefully nothing this extreme ever again. Keep fighting the good fight, though, making the world better, and knowing how many people out there have got your back. You’ve inspired a lot of people, simply by doing what’s right. Good for you.

  • hockeymonkey

    Adding my voice to the chorus…Thank you Jessica!

  • Desert Son, OM


    Many thanks and heartiest congratulations from central Texas for your efforts, patience, courage, persistence, reason, example, resilience, counsel, critical thinking, and demonstration of the highest character. Cheers for victory in the Cranston case. Every day is a reminder to renew our own efforts in our own geographies. Thank you for your leadership. Great news!

    Still learning,


  • jokr8790

    Excellent. The Cranston Board of Education came to a wise decision considering that any other would have earned them the justified ridicule of the majority of this nation as well as the world community. Now hopefully Jessica can go to school, finish her education and accept her diploma without having to endure any more attempts at intimidation and hostility from so-called “Christians.” I hope she considers going into constitutional law when she graduates from college.

  • bkhawkeye

    Finger guns in the air for Jessica! Pew pew pew!

  • MaryL

    Thanks for ‘standing up’.

  • uqbar

    Thank you Jessica -

    It’s not easy to stand up to a hostile community. Be proud of what you accomplished; Cranston is a better place for your efforts.

  • TerraPosse

    Rock on Jessica! When my daughter is old enough to ask about any living person to aspire to then I will tell her your story and hope she will grow up to be as courageous as you are.

    A humble supporter from across the pond.

  • Aquaria

    Jessica, thank you for standing up for reason, reality and the Constitution.

    And thanks for bringing Desert Son out of hiding! We miss you, man.

  • tricycle

    Thank you.

    Just, thank you.

    I am inspired and humbled.

  • Neko

    THANK YOU JESSICA- for doing what’s right, not what’s popular :P

  • Anteprepro

    A little late to the party, but thank you for your fight, Jessica. At well past legal drinking age, and in a small little area in New England where anti-religious sentiment is surprisingly common (I think I just got lucky) I have yet to gather the courage to speak up against religion much, even when there are so many others who seem to have the same sentiments. Yet you, only halfway through high school, are willing to stand up against your entire community for what is right with a courage and wit that I still can only muster from behind an internet screen. Bravo, Jessica. I hope that when I grow up, I can be like you!

  • NeedsEvidence

    Dear Jessica,

    You are a true American hero. Thank you for your work to keep the U.S. secular.

  • John Phillips, FCD

    From another from across the pond, it is young people like you that give me hope for all our futures.

  • Kat In AZ

    Jessica, thank you for staying true to yourself, to your beliefs and for never backing down from what was right, even through the threats of violence. You are every teen free-thinker’s hope and inspiration for standing up against their public school having religious quotes on their walls. Hopefully more public schools will see this decision and if they have religious messages in their schools that are not just an individual opinion of one student or teacher, and they remove those messages without any long drawn out legal battle or any one kid having to go thru what you did to force them to obey the law.

  • Sarahface

    You’re a year or two younger than me, but you’ve already achieved so, so much. More than I consider I have a realistic chance of achieving in my lifetime. I’ve watched this saga unfold from across the Atlantic, and although I’ve never said anything in a public forum like this before now, you have nevertheless always had my unspoken support. You are a source of inspiration to go out and do things to benefit the world, to me and to many, many others – as the comment thread above can attest.You truly are a reminder that the world is not all darkness, and that there is hope for our generation, in spite of the prevailing media image of teenagers as ‘switched-off’, uninterested, and unaware. You are currently one of the best examples we have of doing what is right and good, even if it is not easy. For this, thank you.
    I hope you don’t have too many dark times (probably foolishly), but I also hope that, when they come, you can look to places like this for help, support, and a reminder that you have a large number of people cheering you on. I hope that these comments, although they are only from a selection of random strangers on the internet, remind you that you are not alone.
    There’s probably a lot more I could say in this vein, but frankly, it could all be summed up in six words:
    Thank you for everything you’ve done.

  • Martin Stone

    Jessica (and her friends and family):

    Words cannot describe how happy I am that FINALLY the Cranston School Board has done the correct thing. Thank you for standing up for not only your rights, but the rights of every American. I know that you still have a few years of high-school left – and so this won’t really be over for awhile, unfortunately…

    You are a brave young person and you have brought a voice of hope and encouragement to many like you across this land.

    From a godless old guy living in the deep south, CONGRATS!

    BTW, It was great to meet both you and your father at last year’s FFRF conference, in Hartford.