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Atheist teen stands behind her position after school prayer banner taken down Comments

A prayer banner at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, part of the school since 1963, has been covered after a teenage student there complained that it violated the separation of church and state. Student Jessica Ahlquist is standing her ground, since 2010, she's been receiving online threats and has been targeted by bullies for her convictions. Continue Reading

21 - 30 of 46 Comments

  1. abey
    2 years ago

    Keddren, It does take a bit of faith to understand Faith, for it really does not have a language other than the language of "The Bible". Read it in the language of your choice & pray that the Spirit guide you in the understanding, keeping in mind that the aim of this life is to salvation, in Christ to "Our Father in Heaven."

  2. Doug Indeap
    2 years ago

    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; each of us has that freedom. 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.

  3. frjimt
    2 years ago

    Simply put: the tyranny of one over the many!

  4. DKeane
    2 years ago

    Prior to the writing of OUR Constitution, there was a person in Massachusetts that was banished to England for his beliefs about the separation of church and state - his name was Roger Williams. His ideas were truly revolutionary in that he thought the state shouldn't be meddling in private religious affairs nad he ended up starting Rhode Island. In other pre-Constitution states like Virginia, you were forced to pay taxes to support the local Anglican minister (church, house, farm, stipend) and if you were a Presbyterian or a baptist, the state forced you to get a license and you were commonly jailed, assaulted, or run out of town for your beliefs. Mary Dyer was hung in Massachusetts for defying puritan laws.

    The very reason the catholic majority in Rhode Island has prospered, is because of the first amendment. Catholics were once a feared minority and would have been at the mercy of the majority if it wasn't for the Constitution.

    Now we have this brave young woman who has stood up for her beliefs that a prayer on a publicly funded institution gives the appearance of the state endorsing a particular brand of faith. Jessica has stood up in front of her community and is now reviled by many. She is being treated the same way the majority of protestants treated Catholics when they first arrived and sued to have protestant bibles removed from the curriculum being taught in our schools.

  5. echidna
    2 years ago

    Some have commented that all Jessica had to do was avert her eyes. The history of the banner was to display that Cranston High West was Christian, distinct from the godless communists. The banner proudly proclaims the school's Christianity, which alienated non-Christians from the beginning. The state protects children from alienation on religious grounds in the public school that they are compelled to attend. 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.'

  6. echidna
    2 years ago

    I am surprised that the words of the local Catholic bishop were not included in the article. From the RI Catholic:
    'Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said then it is understandable that people respond “in a very intense and emotional way” when cultural icons, religious symbols or traditional moral values are challenged.

    “Nonetheless, resorting to personally insulting and even threatening language in such public controversies is totally unacceptable, especially when directed at a young person such as Jessica Ahlquist who has every right to promote her beliefs and express her opinion,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement'

  7. keddren
    2 years ago

    Abey, you want to try that once more in english?

  8. stefanie
    2 years ago

    The school should just display the prayer as a historic artifact, that way they can circumvent the law and still encourage those who do pray.

  9. Bulbajer
    2 years ago

    I generally agree that the banner should stay down. The prayer itself would be perfect for a Christian school. To those who argue that the simple prayer isn't forcing belief but rather expressing it: good point. Very good point. It's hard to draw the line between force and expression. But what would you say if the banner expressed a religion besides Christianity? For example, Islam?

  10. Cuttlefish
    2 years ago

    Joseph H.--please read the judge's decision. He puts it more clearly than I could hope to.


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