David A Bradley is our Idiot of the Week

David A Bradley is our Idiot of the Week March 13, 2012

WHEN you’re at the impressionable age of 12, choosing Jesus as your saviour and becoming a warrior for the Lord makes perfect sense, but at 16 one “isn’t old enough to know the meaning of atheism”, let alone embrace it.

David A Bradley (Freida Squires – The Providence Journal)

That’s the foolish and petulant view of David A Bradley, a man who claims to have written a prayer that was subsequently inscribed on a plaque fixed to the auditorium wall of Cranston High School West, Rhode Island.

There it languished for around half-a-century until an uppity atheist teenager, Jessica Ahlquist, mounted a legal challenge to the thing, and forced its removal.

Bradley was incensed, and penned the following letter to the Hartford Courant, which ran it on March 7 – and spelled atheist wrong in the headline!

I read the article Feb. 26 about a fundraising campaign among atheists to build a $40,000-plus scholarship fund for Jessica Alquist of Cranston, R.I …
How nice of them. Jessica was duped by her ACLU-leaning father and uncle into bringing suit against the city of Cranston over the display of a school prayer that I wrote in 1960.

Dear Jessica isn’t yet old enough to know the meaning of atheism. She was used (and permanently injured) by powers and ideologies in the name of secular liberal progressivism that she can’t possibly understand at her tender age.
I can’t believe The Courant would dignify such an award by such a group and to such a person with a piece on its pages. The R I judge’s ruling in this case and the subsequent headlines fly in the face of all that is decent and moral about the United States and its Constitution.
Furthermore, I’d like to think that, as the author of the moral and upstanding school prayer in question, I’d be entitled to ten or a hundred times as much money as Jessica has been awarded for having torn it down and repudiated decency and morality in our schools. Where are my donors?

Now here’s a thing! When The Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta, reproduced Bradley’s letter on his blog yesterday, the following comment, posted by New Zealander Marc Gregory du Pille appeared:

Jessica Ahlquist and the prayer mural

Mr Bradley is being rather overgenerous to himself with his view of his contribution to the banner. The text of the school prayer was identical to one which had already been in use by the school for  some years and was broadcast over the school PA until this practice was deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in 1962.  
The artwork was almost identical to a similar banner at nearby Hugh B Bain Middle School, except that the school colours were changed from Bain’s to CHSW’s.  There was no student artwork involved whatsoever. Mr Bradley and his group’s major involvement was to raise funds for the project.  The Creed and the School Prayer Banners were painted and erected by a professional.  The whole project was initiated and supervised by the school administration at every stage.

If this is correct – and du Pille later assured readers that this information is contained in court records –  it would appear that Bradley is not only an idiot but a liar.

Here’s how Mehta responded to Bradley’s letter:

Where do you even begin with tripe like that?

Jessica’s in her mid-teens now. She became an atheist years ago. I became an atheist when I was 14. A lot of people can tell you that they became atheists at a young age. Whenever we first began to think critically and ask questions — that’s when it happened. (Edit: Obviously, Bradley knew he believed in god at the age of 12, but Jessica can’t be an atheist at 16? Hypocrisy, anyone?)

Jessica wasn’t duped by anyone, nor was she a pawn of the ACLU. This was a decision she brought to their attention, not the other way around.

Oh, and the scholarship for Jessica isn’t for $40,000. I’m still awaiting the final numbers, but it’s more than that.

A lot more than that.

Bradley isn’t entitled to anything. But if he wants to help pay the $150,000+ in legal fees the district owes, I’m sure they’d appreciate his help, considering he’s part of the reason they got into this mess in the first place.



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  • Graham Martin-Royle

    The R I judge’s ruling in this case and the subsequent headlines fly in the face of all that is decent and moral about the United States and its Constitution.

    This idiot doesn’t even know his own constitution so why does he think he should pontificate about it. It was ruled illegal because it broke the constitution.

  • barriejohn

    David A Bradley: Variable daddy
    Is that ectoplasm emerging from his nostrils again?

  • Pete H

    Three points:
    1. Dear Jessica isn’t yet old enough to know the meaning of atheism. She was used (and permanently injured) by powers and ideologies in the name of secular liberal progressivism that she can’t possibly understand at her tender age.
    I’ve seen a long speech given by Jessica and she is clearly a very intelligent young lady who knows exactly what she thinks and why she thinks it.
    2. The R I judge’s ruling in this case and the subsequent headlines fly in the face of all that is decent and moral about the United States and its Constitution.
    The judge upheld the Constitution. Having the prayer in the school is against the law, you utter fool.
    3. The scholarship fund was a great way to reward Jessica’s bravery – yes, bravery – in standing up for what she believed in when faced with sickening personal abuse and bullying from schoolmates, parents and other religious fuckwits in her town. I happily donated towards it, because I’m delighted to see young atheists coming forward and speaking up, especially in the oh-so-pious USA.

  • AgentCormac

    “Furthermore, I’d like to think that, as the author of the moral and upstanding school prayer in question, I’d be entitled to ten or a hundred times as much money as Jessica has been awarded for having torn it down and repudiated decency and morality in our schools. Where are my donors?”
    Ah, so it’s really all about the money! And if there’s one thing I dislike more than a whinging pompous xtian, it’s a greedy, whinging pompous xtian.
    What a despicable and ill-informed little man.

  • D. Austin

    She was legally right, and he is a bonehead
    But somehow it’s sad that we’re ripping down the cultural remains
    of our grandfathers because we’re better educated.
    We should be better than this, that “prayer” should not have been
    there, but was it offensive? Was it a legacy of bygone days?
    Destroying the remains of the past doesn’t make the future better, it in fact just makes the future ignorant of the past.
    There was a time when the Taliban were the legal rulers of Afganistan
    and they had the legal right to destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan, History will forever judge them to be the Barbarians they are for doing so. Frankly this also is a act of barbarism if you consider the prayer as a work of history and art.
    Sharia, Honor killing, Scientology,go almost unchallenged.
    If this is an victory for Athesim, I’d rather have the defeat than the shame of this tiny victory.

  • @ D. Austin – When something is illegal, leaving it in that state because of tradition would not be acceptable under any other circumstances. Religion cannot continue to get a pass. I agree the prayer was not a huge deal, but the principle was, and always will be. Regardless, it’s not for you to say what is offensive to others – there are plenty of people with good reason to be offended by their public buildings being marked with the prayers of a faith that despises them for what they were born to be, or murdered their ancestors.
    This victory is not shameful. What is shameful is suggesting that painting over a prayer on a wall will somehow stop young people being aware of the existence of Christianity in America. What is shameful, and revolting, is comparing this woman and her courageous actions with the Taliban. What is the matter with you? You honestly cannot see the difference? Afghanistan is not the United States. They were not governed by a Constitution enshrining freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. They were a theocratic dictatorship, and even then they did not have the right to destroy a site held sacred by their religious enemies. They just had the means to do so unchallenged. A public school, however, had no right to have that prayer there in the first place. It wasn’t sacred, it was aberrant. No one worshiped that wall; no one paid it much mind at all until somebody dared challenge the privilege of Christians to have the prayer where it should not by law be displayed.
    Bradley is acting like the typical impotent bully – he has seen that the person he would dominate will not be cowed and is willing to stand up to him and his ilk, and it has incensed him. As ever, this leads to a lot of harsh words that make no sense. He can be a committed Christian from a young age but she cannot even begin to understand atheism? Miss Ahlquist is simply being denied her agency even outside her presence, which is far from new to conservative Christians. What appears to have driven them batty here is that she won’t let their attempts to control her and reshape her into their own caricature of her stick. It is just a shame that people who claim to believe so deeply feel such desperation when challenged that they lash out at those they admit to presuming to be pretty much defenceless. Who’s the evil little thing here?

  • The Woggler

    barriejohn – I think it’s a maggot. Dunno what that is on his moustache though.

  • Haymoon

    It’s not “incenced”. It’s “incensed”

  • Stonyground

    I may be wrong but I think that the compromise of removing the Heavenly Father and the Amen from the plaque, and keeping the central message, which is fairly admirable, was suggested. As it turned out, those who wanted to keep the whole thing didn’t give a shit about the admirable part of the message anyway. The part about being good sports and smiling when they lose as well as when they win? Well they failed to live up to that in a pretty spectacular way didn’t they?
    @D. Austin
    What JohnMWhite said.

  • Don

    ‘Frankly this also is a act of barbarism if you consider the prayer as a work of history and art.’
    It would be pointless discussing what constitutes ‘art’ but that banner falls outside my personal parameters. Which doesn’t matter because AFAIK it has not been destroyed. Just moved. So comparing this to the Taliban is rather to over-egg the pudding.
    As for being a work of history, I can remember in my primary school posters on the wall depicting ‘Peoples of the Empire’. I’m sure you can imagine how they were portrayed. Of historical interest and no doubt today fetching a price on eBay as ‘ironic’ decor. But not really what we want on school walls today.
    These symbolic markers, like the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn, are more or less ways of ‘tagging’ a public space and claiming it as your ‘turf’. Much as some animals scent-mark objects to establish their territory and warn off intruders.
    But Jessica was not an intruder or a member of an out-group to be tolerated as long as they STFU. That item had no more place in a school than a Jesus-fish (or Darwin-fish) has on a police car or fire-engine.

  • john.c

    Hogwash, I knew I was being lied to when I was 6 years old,got chucked out of my first school for disrupting assembly.The sky fairy stories never realy did it for me.The guys hair and mustache speak for him, a messed up twit.As to the right age for atheism, 0 years old onwards, no child is born believing crap, it takes adults to put that in their heads.Mention god to my kids,they will look at you funny.

  • The award is well-deserved.
    Be careful when pointing out spelling errors though — you’ve got a typo in the same sentence where you point out your subject’s. (‘Incensed’ has an ‘s’ not a second ‘c’.) 😉

  • Georgina

    When this guy was 12 women were considered larger children.
    Being religiously bigoted, he probably thinks no women should speak for herself, an attitude made obvious by the ‘father’ and ‘uncle’ comment – not her Mother or her Aunt?
    Reminds me of those idiot imams that insist models are forced to display their bodies (for huge sums of money) by their male guardians, as if every little girl didn’t dream of being another Kate Moss/Heidi Klum.
    Nope, sorry, this man belongs to the horde who believe women are deficient in intelligence and need to be told what to do.
    I grew up with men like that, one cannot tell then anything, “‘cos them’s men”.

  • Barry Duke

    Whoops! Corrected now, cdogzilla.

  • lucy

    well spotted.

  • D. Austin

    @Don, @Stoneyground, @JohnMWhite
    Yes the comparsion is overweight, but you all knew of it, an underweight action you would not. I was just pointing out this is
    iconoclasm and petty. It is an embarassment.
    And yes the banner has been taken down, not destroyed, but the damage
    is done, the banner was a present of the first class to graduate out
    of that school first year in 1963, before the law was changed. We have
    rejected those people and their values and made them non existant, as
    Winston Smith did for a living. Now we don’t have to be offended,Now we don’t have to think about them, and how primitive they were,now we don’t have to think at all.
    Frankly I don’t think this is a “victory” it’s too petty, getting
    the government to treat Churchs equal with non church organizations
    will be a victory, Enforcing equal standards for logical reasons on
    muslims would be a victory.(ie: nurses washing arms) all this did was make atheists into petty barracks room lawyers attacking our cultural heritage, warts and all.
    ‘Another such victory and I am undone’ Pyrrhus of Epirus, 280 BC

  • Ken

    “getting the government to treat Churches equally with non church organizations will be a victory”
    Victory for what? The American constitution separates church and State, thereby avoiding an established church like the C of E. But it also entailed the State not interfering in the internal doctrinal affairs of the various churches, the separation works both ways. Whilst I don’t think it is the state’s job to promote religion, neither is it the state’s job to try to suppress it. Bringing the law in disputes about an innocuous prayer on the wall in a school seems to me to be a misuse of separation of church and state intended by the constitution. I’m not quite sure what damage it was likely to do – why not simply ignore it?

  • D. Austin

    Victory for the Taxpayer
    The separation of church and state may be written in the constitution, but it is interpeted and enforced by the courts
    For every dollar which the government cannot collect on church property taxes, And there is a lot of it. It must make up for by raising all other taxes and collecting it from citizens; thus all citizens are forced by the state to indirectly support churches, even those they do not belong to and may even oppose.

  • DeadC

    Just enjoyed reading this reply on The Courrant website.

  • DeadC

    Sorry….pasted wrong link above in my link. Meant to post….
    Just enjoyed reading this reply on The Courrant.

  • Pete H

    You did it again, DeadC. 😀

  • David Anderson

    Seems like the law of the USA disagees with you Ken.

  • Barry Duke
  • Stonyground

    @ D. Austin
    Just because one issue is more important than another issue doesn’t mean that the less important issue isn’t important at all. Also there is no need to take an either/or decision on the two issues, it is possible to campaign on both.
    In the UK the law is a lot more vague. We recently had a legal judgement preventing a local council from holding Christian prayers as part of its agenda. Before the issue even went to court it was suggested that the prayers could be held prior to official business so that non-believers and those of other religions could give them a miss. Why was this obvious solution turned down? Why did the Christians on the council feel the need to coerce non Christians into sitting through their prayers? Don’s comparison with animals scent marking territory seems apt. I can see where you’re coming from when you say that these things seem trivial but long experience makes me think that you shouldn’t give religious folk an inch because if you do they will take a mile, possibly several hundred miles.

  • Ken

    David Anderson – my point is more that the US constitution separating church and state is now being abused to get rid of anything with a ‘religious’ connection from public buildings. Do we really need the coercive power of the state to decide a rather sentimental prayer should be removed from a school? Personally, I’m not bothered by the presence or absence of such a thing, but I don’t like the state involvment in such an issue.
    Anyway, what do you reckon? Jessica is now enjoying all the attention she is getting from this. Was that the motive in the first place? Is her atheism just a means to an end?

  • barriejohn

    …my point is more that the US constitution separating church and state is now being abused to get rid of anything with a ‘religious’ connection from public buildings.
    I still don’t get your point!

  • David Anderson

    Ken: Unless Jessica possesses some kind of supernatural power there is no way she could have foreseen the outcome. I doubt she enjoyed the disgusting attention she received from the loving Christians.
    Her motive is plain to see. The prayer displayed on the school wall is a violation of the law in the USA. Like barriejohn, I can’t understand how you see the court upholding the US constitution is abuse.

  • Ken

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ….”
    Now that is clear – no Church of American at federal level (although individual States could have an established church if they chose provided they didn’t ban any other churches).
    Recently New York has used this separation clause to evict churches that hire govt buildings (basically schools) on Sundays. This was overturned on appeal on the basis of it interfering with ‘the free exercise thereof’, but may in turn be appealed.
    It strikes me (and I don’t claim to be an expert on American constitutional law) that churches in the States (who do know about this) are right to see this as an infringement of their liberty. Whether that is the precise case in the school prayer incident, is perhaps debatable, but the prayer is hardly establishing a religion on behalf of the state.
    Quite why Jessica thinks ‘her rights were being violated’ and having religion shoved down her throat by the prayer is beyond me! It that were the case, I’d have some sympathy for her.

  • D. Austin

    Perhaps because the council had been opened for hundreds and hundreds
    of years with that tradional prayer?
    And now some PC bonehead or cultural enricher import went to court to
    end it.
    I can’t wait for the next cornation, King William will pick up his
    Kings licence at the Ministry of Truth, instead of Westminster
    because the church, the cross, the benediction, the choir song, and
    most especially the shouting of “God save the King” will be offensive
    to someone somewhere.
    I’m sure that will draw an even bigger audience than his grandma’s cornation in 52. That is if a new spongebob cartoon isn’t opposite it.

  • @D. Austin – you’re waffling. You are the one who is an embarrassment, still trying to justify comparing a high school student to the Taliban. We are not idiots, you could have easily cited a reasonable example or used an allegory, but regardless it doesn’t even matter – I already explained why your example is not only insulting but irrelevant. The situations do not match at all.
    @Ken – Yes, the prayer is establishing a religion on behalf of the state. It is enshrining a particular religion right in the wall of a public building. That’s illegal. I don’t care if it seems petty to certain people, it was a breach of the Constitution and a starting point. It only got out of hand and made waves around the world because of the outrageous reaction of Christians, not because a high school student was being ‘petty’ by asking that her school please stop breaking the law.
    That you have no sympathy for someone who has endured the scorn of her entire community for standing up for what is right says a lot about you, unfortunately. And with the attitude of yourself and D. Austin, why bother fighting anything? There’s always something worse somewhere else we could be concentrating on.

  • D. Austin

    @ JohnMWhite
    No I’m disageeing with you, this has nothing to do with making breakfest
    They are both ignorant zealots
    Actually one of you is an idiot, guess who it is?
    Hint the first letter of their handle is “J” and they got their
    knickers in a knot because i don’t revere their heroine.
    BTW the prayer predates both the banishment of school prayer and the Lemon test. It should have been deemed under the Grandfather clause, a situation in which an old rule continues to apply to some existing situations, while a new rule will apply to all future situations.
    They could have appelled until they got a competant judge but with
    the ACLU the process is part of the punishment.
    As for those who are citing the constitution, the constitution
    is “interpeted by Judges” to mean whatever the hell they want it
    As is basic law, or what passes for it

  • Ken

    “That you have no sympathy for someone who has endured the scorn of her entire community for standing up for what is right says a lot about you, unfortunately.”
    But you don’t know what I think of her! And, given the premise of her atheism, what is ‘right’ is only ever going to be a matter of opinion.
    I would very much hope that US Christians would refrain from verbal attacks or any nastiness (she claims a ‘sickening amount of hostility and hatred’) – I’m not aware of any in the evangelical blogosphere. Granted Christians can lose it and say what they shouldn’t, the claimed nasty internet reaction from “Christians” she quotes and that is so eagerly affirmed by other atheists show a worrying amount of gullibility. A genuine ‘Jesus Team’ or similar are not going to liberally sprinkle the F word in their diatribes, and there are plenty with an axe to grind against Christianity who can use this to vent their spleen.
    Whilst she has not sunk to that level, there is an element of contempt for religion in general and possibly Christians in particular in what she writes, ‘so strident and confrontational’. Such contempt is something I dislike wherever it comes from.

  • @D. Austin – Oh dear. I thought we could have a discussion, but you apparently need to grow up first. Yes, yes, my knickers are in a knot, I’m so upset, I’m also an idiot, blah blah, let’s descend into childish bickering because having a disagreement is too hard. And you call a high school student who stood up for the law ‘petty’. Get a grip.
    The constitution is interpreted at times (not to mean ‘whatever the hell a judge wants’, though), but it is also a clear document and judges have already ruled on what it means when it comes to prayer in public schools. The grandfather clause doesn’t apply to the country’s founding document. Yet again, this prayer was a long-standing violation of US law and somebody made an appropriate complaint. You might disagree with somebody bothering to make that complaint, or you might not think it’s as important as saving statues in a country ruled by warlords, but that’s too bad. The law is what it is, and it belies what you are when you determine that any judge that disagrees with you isn’t ‘competent’ while insisting that judges (rather than the text and longstanding arrangements) are who we should look to for constitutional clarity.
    @Ken – I do know what you think of her, you just said you don’t have sympathy for her in your previous reply. And what is ‘right’ here is a matter of US law, it has nothing to do with atheism. It’s like you’re having an entirely different argument. If you’re not aware of the nastiness and attacks on Ahlquist, you haven’t been reading about the story.

  • D. Austin

    @ JohnMWhite
    Ever notice how big the fight is when a supreme court judge is appointed? Their personnal views shape the law.
    Did you read the articule i posted, was that judge competent?
    Judges,DAs, and police selectivity apply the law.
    Judge made law, In Oklahoma voters last year passed a law that prevents judges from basing rulings on international law — and specifically mentions Islamic law, often known as Shariah law.
    That was overturned by a Judge as unconstitional. He could have
    ruled otherwise if he wanted, just like that Muslim judge tossed
    the laws aside becuase he was offended.
    There are incompetent judges that is why there is are appeals.
    and case overturns.
    That is also why higher judges are appointed, not elected.

  • Ken

    JohnMWhite – I have read some of the story, and think apart form my caveat stated earlier that genuine Christians can lose the plot, she is pretty gullible if she thinks the diatribes directed at her reveal just what hateful people Christians are.

  • Bubblecar

    I’m just glad that when confronted with clear breaches of the US Constitution, judges don’t ask themselves: “What would Ken do?”

  • Anonymous

    @Ken: “she is pretty gullible if she thinks the diatribes directed at her reveal just what hateful people Christians are.”
    Well, if this is what people are subjected to by self-identified Christians, or those who it is reasonable to suspect have some Christian beliefs, then yes, people will tend to think of Christians(“Real” or not), as hateful bigots.

  • Ken

    It couldn’t possibly be that anyone and everyone with an axe to grind against religion in general and Christianity in particular would use the opportunity to try to discredit what they despise?
    As for this being a breach of the US constitution, I’m pretty sure this is not what the founders intended by the separation clause, but activist judges have added this as an interpretation. Having done so, this monumentally powerful prayer becomes technically illegal, but I still wonder why the fuss to get rid of it – is Jessica as fussy about every other law being so rigidly enforced. I would have more sympathy for her position if the school were tying to put some religious text up now, as this might be construed as promoting a particular religion.

  • Richie

    This guy looks like a pedophile.

  • Auch in Paraguay ist es schön und man kann hier gut leben – auch vom Internet.