Jessica Ahlquist’s Press Conference

Jessica Ahlquist’s Press Conference January 15, 2012

Here’s the Youtube clip of the press conference held by the ACLU attorneys and Jessica Ahlquist. She shows tremendous courage, poise and intelligence, as she has throughout the case, even in the face of attempts to intimidate and threaten her.


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  • Randomfactor

    And it will surprise no one that the local crazies are doubling down on teh crazy–the school committee is reportedly meeting Tuesday night to decide whether or not to appeal (likely in executive session) and a radio “personality” whipping up the faithful for a pro-banner demonstration. No word as to whether they’ll be bringing pitchforks.

    (Of course, he was involved a few years ago in a ratings scandal and blamed his wife for cooking the books–maybe just the two of them will show up and claim thousands…)

  • Michael Heath

    Below is a running commentary as I watched the video.

    Given her age I think she does a fine job of presenting herself. She’s obviously someone acting in a principled manner at a precocious age; as evidenced by the fact this mural has been up for around 50 years. Therefore she’s earned our respect and admiration, a great deal of respect and admiration.

    I do think she makes some arguments which open her up to justifiable criticism so I hope her lawyers analyze this press conference as an exploitable teaching moment for her so she can hone her position to one is more easily defensible from her opponents. For example, 7:27 in she expressed frustration that the school, “wasn’t necessarily supporting me and my views”. Well the school has no obligation to support her views, that in itself is arguably an establishment violation if they did and reduces the level of discourse from one of principled defense of constitutionally protected rights to a mere policy argument, where she loses the moral high ground.

    At 10:20 she asserts that she thinks she can be friends with fellow student believers (she previously acknowledged she’s an atheist), “the point is that [their religious views] doesn’t belong in school”. Now earlier in this same segment she noted her believer students still have the right to hold these views; but she’s wrong student believers can’t express these in school. I think it’s probable she didn’t intend to express the idea students have no religious expression rights in school; I’m merely noting this as a teachable moment for her. And we should always cut some slack when dealing with verbal rather than written expressions. So my point is merely constructive criticism on her rhetoric, not that she holds an objectionable point. I think it’s important to eradicate arguably cogent criticisms of her, especially given the school is considering appeal which will keep her in the public eye where I hope the best for her. She’s already a polished responder not merely relative to her age, but for anyone whose not paid to publically speak.

    Probably one of the biggest misconceptions at least conservative believers have of non-fundamentalists is that they all hold standards which are relative rather than objective. So I was very happy to see Ms. Ahlquist repeatedly hold others accountable to objective standards, i.e., “doing what is right”. A standard that motivated her to have the mural taken down and a standard she expected the school to adhere to given the Constitution. In addition she promoted acting with conviction. A good example is just past 12:00 (perhaps closer to 12:20). Bravo Ms. Ahlquist with your “Standing up for what you believe in because you know it’s right.” – Music to these ears not merely because she expressed this sentiment, but primarily because her premises are compellingly right.

    Around 14:00, she needs to be able to articulate how such rulings help Christians students as well. She was not able to explain this in spite of being the one to raise it and assert it. I agree with her conclusion – while maintaining an excellent counter exists, but she couldn’t explain why where having a good answer reveals the only valid counter requires those believers to oppose the Constitution.

    I was impressed with how the ACLU lawyers exploited the behavior of the school officials and defenders of the mural by revealing how they denigrated their own religious beliefs in this case. That was one of the original arguments for church-state separation by both the grandfather of separationism (Roger Williams), and the founding framers, that not keeping them separate harmed religion.

    At 22:00 in Ms. Ahlquist notes that Lee v. Weisman was a motivating inspiration for her. [A 5-4 Rehnquist-court decision with J. Kennedy arguing government prayer at voluntary school-sponsored events is unconstitutional.] I’m impressed a student who was either a high school freshman or sophomore at the time was even aware of that ruling, let alone a motivator for her to take up a case against her own school. Hopefully we’ll see at least a sufficiently lengthy article published on her to understand the entire story.

  • Paul Neubauer

    I (unsurprisingly) agree with Michael Heath. This was an impressive performance by a very poised and confident young woman. I want to add that I was also impressed by the way her father was clearly there for her, but simply said “I’m proud of her.” That showed great restraint.

    Jessica, if you’re reading this, I want you to know that there are a lot of us here who are proud of you. You have stood up for the right. Young people like you are role models for everyone.

  • Reginald Selkirk


    Newt vows to defeat secularism

    The usual quotes about how godly the founding fathers were

  • If there was such a thing as an afterlifelife, Roger Williams would be highfivin’ TJ.