Teen atheist Jessica Ahlquist wins prayer lawsuit against high school (VIDEO)

Saturday, 28 January 2012 11:57
ahlquistJessica012812_optBY BOB HOLT

In a lawsuit filed by a 16-year old Rhode Island girl, a federal judge has ruled that a prayer that has been in Cranston High School West for 49 years had to be covered.

Atheist Jessica Ahlquist has been battling since 2010 to get an 8-foot banner removed from her high school auditorium. It contains a prayer that a student wrote in 1963.

The teenager has been dealing with consequences from Cranston, a highly Roman Catholic city. She has been receiving threats from social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and had been receiving police escorts to classes. She had planned to take time off from school, but according to WPRO News, Ahlquist posted on Twitter that she plans to graduate from Cranston High School West in 2013.

The New York Times reported that the prayer began, “Our Heavenly Father,” the prayer begins, “grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful,” and ended with “Amen.” Ahlquist said, “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here.’ The eight-foot prayer has been covered with a tarp since the decision.

According to ABA Journal, a state representative called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a talk radio show, and three florists refused to deliver her roses sent from national atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation.

WPRI.com reported that the Cranston School Committee had a budget meeting scheduled on Wednesday, but the debate quickly turned to the banner. Police had to be called to contain the crowd. And Cranston School Committee member Frank Lombardi said he is beginning to receive threatening e-mails.

Meanwhile, Ahlquist started a Facebook group that calls for the banner's removal. The group currently has over 5,000 members.

Comments (26)
26 Friday, 07 September 2012 02:02
It hurts to see how mean-spirited some of the atheistic comments are...I believe in God, Our Heavenly Father...And Jesus sacrificed himself for our sins...It pains me.

God help those that don't see what your light offers...Amen.
25 Saturday, 14 July 2012 12:43
Common Sense
The banner is against the law....it must come dawn regardless of everyone's interpretation of religion. bashing each other accomplishes nothing....schools have to abide by the law just as we would like the students that graduate from there to abide....lead by example.
24 Sunday, 05 February 2012 13:34
.Don't waste your time back in court. Take the prayer banner down. Donate it to a local church. Replace the teen created banner with another. Include positive words. Example below:

"Collaboration of teachers, parents and community are the keys to our children's well-being. Always be kind, helpful and caring. This will bring Cranston High School West a good name."

Results? This ignorant child and her parents will be shut down. She may even lose the money she's already received for being an antagonistic person. Just maybe this little girl will have a chance to loser her status as 'pawn'. Unfortunately she is nothing more, nothing less.

Our nation suffers from high unemployment, poverty, domestic violence, harassment, sickness and death, etc. Don't think the ACLU will help any of them. We waste our resources, time and money, on the opinion of a little girl who has not been breathing long enough on the earth to know anything. Let's just teach this kid that the world really does revolve around her. It's embarrassing
23 Friday, 03 February 2012 06:02
God Yavhe loves hard-fucking
22 Friday, 03 February 2012 06:00
Paco Lobatón
Jesus Chist is fucker.
21 Friday, 03 February 2012 03:58
I'm proud of you!
20 Thursday, 02 February 2012 21:22
19 Monday, 30 January 2012 09:26
As a Christian I don't condone such behavior by my fellow brothers & sisters in Christ; behavior that I believe to be un-Christ-like. However, the narcissism of that teen, as well as other people from other situations and experiences, needs to be addressed.

"Ahlquist said, 'It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, "You don’t belong here."'"

And she plans to graduate from the school.

Seriously, if you can't deal with a school's heritage, why are you still enrolled there in the first place?
18 Monday, 30 January 2012 00:04
jaime p
it's apparent, from many of the comments, that the more religious people in our country have completely forgotten, or have been intentionally mislead as to the beginning of our country. they've forgotten that our government was founded religion free for a reason. they've forgotten what will happen if we become a theocracy. they claim the last 2000 years of history, as if they made it happen. they've forgotten the millions killed in the name of 'god'.

please, keep it away from me, your religion. it makes us all a little too stupid.
17 Sunday, 29 January 2012 18:40
Doug Indeap
Why some would direct their ire at someone like Jessica Ahlquist who seeks to uphold the Constitution, rather than those flouting it is not apparent. It is important to distinguish between "individual" and "government" speech about religion. The First Amendment's "free exercise" clause assures that each individual is free to exercise and express his or her religious views--publicly as well as privately. The Amendment constrains only the government not to promote or otherwise take steps toward establishment of religion. As government can only act through the individuals comprising its ranks, when those individuals are performing their official duties (e.g., public school teachers instructing students in class and principals hanging banners in schools), they effectively are the government and thus should conduct themselves in accordance with the First Amendment's constraints on government. When acting in their individual capacities, they are free to exercise their religions as they please. If their right to free exercise of religion extended even to their discharge of their official responsibilities, however, the First Amendment constraints on government establishment of religion would be eviscerated. While figuring out whether someone is speaking for the government in any particular circumstance may sometimes be difficult, making the distinction is critical.

A word should be added about the common canard that this is all about people easily offended. We’re not talking about the freedom of individuals to say or do something others find offensive. We’re talking about the government weighing in to promote religion. Under our Constitution, our government has no business doing that--REGARDLESS of whether anyone is offended. While this is primarily a constitutional point, it is one that conservatives--small government conservatives--should appreciate from a political standpoint as well. While the First Amendment thus constrains government from promoting (or opposing) religion without regard to whether anyone is offended, a court may address the issue only in a suit by someone with "standing" (sufficient personal stake in a matter) to bring suit; in order to show such standing, a litigant may allege he is offended or otherwise harmed by the government's failure to follow the law; the question whether someone has standing to sue is entirely separate from the question whether the government has violated the Constitution.
16 Sunday, 29 January 2012 18:25
D. Aytch
You have to wonder why atheists seem so sensitive about little things like an old prayer hanging in a public school. Then something like this happens, you see the hateful responses spewing from the mouths of the so-called devout and it all makes sense.
15 Sunday, 29 January 2012 18:23
Mr. Joe Hibiki
I've got to say, this is a rather odd situation. I agree that if somebody doesn't feel safe/comfortable in a school, a place that's primary objective is a safe place to be educated, something should be done about it. But at the same time, I really don't like how the Christian community handled the situation. What many of my fellow Christians are failing to figure out is that our arrogant and prideful attitudes are why there are so many atheists and theists that hate our guts. I'm not saying that by acting better, said people would become followers of Christ, but I do think this animosity would dwindle, so that way situations like Ms. Ahlquist's wouldn't have to be taken to court.

I don't know. I just think that we Christians need to realize that we're not being the good example we're supposed to be. Maybe then, we can just be able to get over ourselves and just have a mutual understanding with those that are different from us. Because the Lord loves all, be they Christian, Atheist, Jewish, or anything underneath the sun and stars.
14 Sunday, 29 January 2012 11:59
Another friendly Humanist
This nation was not found on christian values, remember there were people that were already here when America was "discovered". Also, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin wanted to make sure that people always had freedom from religion, not of. Read a history book because most of you are uneducated idiots. This nation was not founded on judeo-christian values, it was ruined by them. Most of you make me sick, this girl did an amazingly brave thing. How would you guys feel if it was a prayer to Buddha or Mohammed? You would want it taken down, right? That is what I thought.
13 Sunday, 29 January 2012 07:28
In the 21 century as we have wide spread media, we can as we should be aware of the world surrounding us. In the light of nearly countless beliefs, embracing one in an open society such as highschool is a direct violation of our right for freedom of beliefs or lack of them. No religion is better than any other. As for example christians never think that they will be in hell for not believing muslims and vice versa.
This girl has just adressed her constitutional and human rights. Bravo for caring about the society. There is nothing worse then close minded people supporting just one of the sides while they don't even intend to understand eachother.
12 Sunday, 29 January 2012 05:44
Good God,, oh, sorry, forgot,, don't want to offend,, so, I will have to change the subject line as well,, since OMG ends with God.

No problem,,, will start working on removing from everything

(such BS)
11 Sunday, 29 January 2012 05:39
delusional masses????????????????
Im a historian and 1960 is very relevant and modern, just because something is older does mean it is invalid or bad. Tell me you stupid idiot were the people who lived in 1960 (60 years ago) so deluded and ignorant because they believed in god, that life actually has a purpose and upon death they will be judged for their actions. Chritianity is very real and relevant considering the society we live in was founded upon it. There is no place more important where Chritian values should be taught than a school. What values would you have a children taught in their place. Secularism had killed the western world our nations have declining birth rates, are full of immigrants and our people worship money and other stupid commodities. There is a shocking lack of morality in our society. Yes religion must be removed to a certain extent from politics to avoid denominationl conflict. But one can never rule without a strong moral code. Once Chritianity goes the lot goes just look at Europe today the whole continant is being taken over by Muslim immigrants. Secularism dosnt work.

Man lives as if he will never die but the reality is you will die one day. The fact that you put god last is so hypocritical because there is only one certainty in this life and it is, you will die. Chritianity is a religion of reason would teaching children simple tenants such as the ten comandments really do harm. Love is what matters the most.
10 Sunday, 29 January 2012 05:17
Grow Up
LOL what a cow, this girl needs a good kick up the backside. She lives in western nation founded on judeo christian values, emigrate. Is it really such a big deal get over it. You might as well ban Chritmass, demolish all the churches, change the calender, restructure the seven day week and cross out the last 2000 years of western history to please this girl.
9 Saturday, 28 January 2012 23:18
From the Warwick Beacon:
'Rabbi Amy Levin, vice president of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, said she has spoken with former Cranston West students who felt uncomfortable with the banner when it was put up in their school nearly 50 years ago. She said the families and individuals she talked with were afraid to make their stance known during an era of such religious fortitude.

“Jessica, 50 years later, managed to give voice to their discomfort,” said Levin.'
And look at the retaliatory storm, even now.
8 Saturday, 28 January 2012 21:34
keeping common sense
Jessica you are a smart young lady... Do not allow yourself to be intimidated by those who use cheap, ploys like the one from @one as in not caring about the problems in this world. There are many atheists that do care about the problems in this world and have good moral values. The above quoted pray has a good sound moral provocation except when it says our heavenly father and Amen. This being very sexist and indoctrinated verbiage. Why do I say this? Because using the father figure persona and masculine Amen (which comes from Egyptian mythology) as so does the myth Jesus comes from mythological lore most certainly proves the point of sexism and indoctrination in to a cult albeit religion.

There is a lot of history that surrounds all the religions that exist outside of what is written in the religious text. Here are some not so nice things the myth Jesus says.

Matthew 10:34. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

"And that servant [slave], which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." (Luke 12:47) He never denounced servitude, incorporating the master-slave relationship into many of his parables.

By the way the word Lord comes from Europe. A Lord was a land owner. You could not leave the Lord (land owner) without his permission. If you did you would be captured/ punished or killed by the Lord…….Look up the futile system in Europe. Why do you think Europeans left Europe? It is pure ignorance to say Jesus is Lord………

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)

The burning of unbelievers during the Inquisition was based on the words of Jesus: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned." (John 15:6)

When one of his disciples requested time off for his father's funeral, Jesus rebuked him: "Let the dead bury their dead." (Matthew 8:22)

"Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression." (I Timothy 2:11-14
Subjection: Bring, make under domination or control, esp. by conquest.

Question? How is the bible much different from Islam? I can guess the answer to this question would be but Jesus said to love. This being true the myth Jesus said to love but the word love only means affection. It does not mean understanding or empathy.

The most stringent controls on speech in the colonial period were controls that outlawed or otherwise censored speech that was considered blasphemous in a religious sense. A 1646 Massachusetts law, for example, punished persons who denied the immortality of the soul. In 1612, a Virginia governor declared the death penalty for a person that denied the Trinity under Virginia's Laws Divine, Moral and Martial, which also outlawed blasphemy, speaking badly of ministers and royalty, and "disgraceful word.
Our founding fathers were mostly agnostic, atheist or deist. Thomas Jefferson only mentioned the word god as in wanting to know the nature of god? Another words he was questioning the existence of there being a god.
The word god comes from the German word Gott or Gotten/Godin which is derived from the Norse male myth deity Wotan/Odin. So you see the word god is derived from mythology as well as all religions are.
Jessica you most certainly made a most right full educated decision to become an atheist. One of my favorite founding fathers who sparked the American Revolution with his writing of Common Sense co-created a new found beginning for the opportunity to have freedom of speech ,the freedom to assemble peacefully,the right to bear arms to protect ourselves from those who may want to harm us for to many still want to do, freedom of the press & of course freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion that established itself from separating religion from government for which it cannot establish.

The following are some links that address inquiry of information in regards to religion and political history.

Truth Be Known http://www.truthbeknown.com/christ.htm
Jesus Never Existed http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/index.html
The Founding Fathers were not Christian http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html
The Naked Truth http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8251447278663885234#
Definition of Theos (found on portion of page that reads “History of the Term” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology

Jessica I wish you all the best and much happiness & success…

Keeping Common Sense
7 Saturday, 28 January 2012 20:35
How is any detail about Jessica of any importance? I read "she's an atheist, she's a brat, she's immature". Can you really surmise all of these personal details from a statement she made? Do any of them actually matter? The answer is a definitive no. She, for whatever reason you choose to believe, saw the constitution being violated and sought to right the wrong. You could speculate that she had personal motives, you could speculate that it's just warfare against religion, you could even be right about all of these things and it wouldn't matter. She is in the right. Students are mandated to go to public school. Public school is funded by tax payer dollars. Religious neutrality is an absolutely essential part of the US government. The importance of religious neutrality is doubly important in a place of unbiased learning. Some of the people of Cranston, rather than reacting to her political statement with a rational argument, jumped straight to the use of intimidation. Thrasymacus would be proud. Cranston is not a country, it's a town in a state in a country. The civil war was fought over the very thing this girl stands for: unity. Cranston does not get to write it's own constitution that has presedence of the US constitution. They are Americans before they are people of Cranston. They are the majority in the town and as John Stewart Mill put it: "The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections." Constitutionalism became popular for this very reason. You need a distribution of powers, you need citizens able to seek justice when they are the minority. Jessica might be a wicked little spoiled brat of an atheist but she is undoubtedly a far better citizen than any of her dissenters.
6 Saturday, 28 January 2012 19:38
If people are offended by 50 years of history and try to legalize and assess it by today’s ACLU standards in today’s world it brings into question thier true motives. The question then may be asked are they really so concerned about the constitutional meaning or are they attempting to amend the constitution and the minds of others to actually minimize the rights of people? If you read the constitution it is about certain God given inalienable rights. Really this is not about a girl who is a atheist who is offended by a 50 years old prayer...This is about using a girl by the ACLU as a front person to squash the rights of the majority of people and their beliefs. So, my conclusion is a simple one...leave the historic wallpapered banner with an explanation and disclaimer that it was written by a 7th grader in 1963 as a gift to his class, albeit in prayer form, to his graduating class and leave it as is. Place a noted card below with the date it was posted...stating it was declared on this day ...50 years later to be too religious to be in the cafeteria by U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux . If you are offended please when reading to yourself change "Our Heavenly Father" to your own name, when you read the word "us" please change it to "me" and when reading the word “our” change it “my”, when reading the word “ourselves” change it to "myself", when reading the word “we” change it to "I" and finally, when reading the word "Amen" change it to “”Let it be", and hopefully no one will be offended. Below are the words as written on the 8 foot prayer:
At the Begining it had a header school prayer, please change it as you read to SCHOOL REQUEST. THANK YOU
5 Saturday, 28 January 2012 16:57
One day this girl will grow up and realize that arguing over something so petty isn't worth her efforts. There are wars, famine, disease, and hunger spreading rampant around the world. Many folks who stand on their self-created pedestals in this country (and others) should take a step down and look at the wider world around them (including in the most underserved areas of our own country).

Maybe then we would see less self-centered and self-obsessed individuals in this world and more community-minded people spending their time and effort truly helping people overcome the evils in this world... instead of covering up a silly banner.
4 Saturday, 28 January 2012 16:49
Sean Richardson
This is a victory for the law, for separation of church and state, and for common sense.

The amount of hate being directed towards this kid is despicable
3 Saturday, 28 January 2012 15:48
she sucks. she's wasting time, energy and tax payer dollars over something stupid. Cover up the "our heavenly father" and "amen" part and move on. especially because kids today are void of so many basic morals.
“grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful"
she should become an activist to bestow these thoughts to others, these words shouldn't be covered up.
2 Saturday, 28 January 2012 14:24
Someone Whocares
Good job Jessica. Way to stand up to the ignorant and delusional masses. Screw your backwards town!!!. Graduate and go to a city where people have actually grown past a 1960s mentality. Rock on sista! Brave!

Praise Little Baby Jesus.
Build that wall Mr. Jefferson!
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