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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

31 - 40 of 46 Comments

  1. Susan Ellis
    2 years ago

    To those who think the banner should stay: it is clearly unconstitutional for a public school to have a permanent prayer on the wall, regardless of who wrote it, what religion(s) it appears to espouse, or whether it quotes scripture or not. There really is no question there. The school's attorneys tried to put forth the argument that Jessica didn't have standing, but they lost.

    To those who think she's wasting taxpayer money: the school had the opportunity from the start to simply remove the overtly religious references, but chose not to.

    To those who say "It's been there for 50 years and no one has complained": look at the response to Jessica's complaint, even in 2012, at a time when atheists are no longer completely intimidated about expressing their disbelief. It's likely many were offended previously, but were (rightly) fearful of even worse treatment than Jessica has received (name-calling, bullying, being spit at, shunned, death threats, rape taunts, etc.)

    To those who say she should just "look the other way" because this is a freedom of expression issue: it is not! Freedom of expression is, e. g., your right to wear the prayer on a shirt. The school is a government institution, and so a prayer on the wall is an Establishment Clause issue.

    To Bryan: that is one of the most ignorance-laden comments I've read about this issue yet. And that's saying a lot. Your last sentence was particularly jaw-dropping.

  2. Colby I.
    2 years ago

    @ Brian & John;

    You two guys, who are quick to judge the Atheist, are the reason that Christians are stereotyped as ignorant.

    As for the article, the prayer should have been removed. The girl was right to complain about it, because the school is not a church. Worship should only be in your home, with a group or at a place of worship. Period.

  3. Joseph H
    2 years ago

    Cuttlefish 2 I take issue with your argument and that of the religious leaders who are saying they are trying to protect our 1st Amendment rights.

    However, before I do that let me say that anyone who has bullied or threatened this teen or anyone else because of this issue needs to read the prayer again and decide to walk in the spirit of the prayer. Anyone who reads the prayer and is offended by it, if you are, reasonable, intelligent, and open minded should be able to see it is not an affront to your liberties as an American citizen.

    Now to the people who are arguing that the display of the prayer violates their first amendment rights. Has the state required the students to recite the prayer as part of their duty? Has the school prevented or obstructed the creation of similar banners by students with a similar tone and respect to be displayed? See the 1st amendment was created to protect citizens rights to free expression of religion NOT to force religious expression to be suppressed. The state has overstepped and violated the 1st amendment by suppressing an expression of faith and goodwill based on a faulty premise and application of the 1st amendment.

    What the state should have done was protect the students rights to express their convictions. They should have denied the lawsuit because it would violate the 1st amendment rights of students of faith. It should have setup an opportunity for students who are a-thiest to produce a banner with a similar tone of excellence and good will toward their students, so that other students would not feel threatened and can be enlightened to students who hold a different belief concerning God or humanity. We could have learned valuable lessons in the spirit of cooperation...rather than hate. It is mind-boggling to me that religious leaders could not discern this and don't have the presence of mind to listen to the Spirit of God and what God is saying.

  4. Calladus
    2 years ago

    John is completely right. The Separation of Church and State is supposed to be used to prevent the government, or an agency of the government (like a public school) from endorsing one religion over another.

    This prayer banner obviously endorses monotheistic religions over polytheistic religions. It obviously endorses those denominations of Christianity who like to pray in public over those denominations of Christianity who hold Matthew 6:5 to actually mean something. This prayer obviously endorses Christianity, (who call their god "Lord" or "Father") over Islam (who call their god "Allah").

    John is right, when the Government endorse one religion over another, it must stop. Too bad he didn't see that is the case here.

  5. abey
    2 years ago

    Jesus, who by Himself is the Truth taught us how to pray of the manner '"Our Father who art in heaven---" which is based on the truth. So if a person like this teenage girl who thinks law is above God & by its name objects to speaking "the truth" whatever be the reasons stated, is a typical case mentioned in the bible, where the spirit of truth is absent in a person, there is the adversary, even in the form of Atheism or Paganism, who as the Truth says has been a liar , thief & a murderer from the very beginning, who tries to make heroes of them that stands against the truth & the stand of this young girl is not just of herself but induced through "Influences", because when the Bible says "Give unto GOD what is to GOD" & HE being the Spirit which form the very basis of Life, concerns Spiritual matters, to which is "Prayer", contradicting the very essence of Ahlqist's stand.

  6. William R. Dickson
    2 years ago

    In reply to Brian, above: Nobody is denying anyone the right to proclaim his or her faith -- only the legality of using a government institution as a billboard for the purpose. The majority does not get to uses the government as its personal pulpit.

    A banner that proclaimed that there are no deities would be just as wrong. The only neutral position is not to have a banner at all.

    2 years ago

    The articles headline, states that the banner was taken down. Thanks to those who are fighting this evil of trying to silence our Faith. It really is time to step up to the plate and start swinging. We do not have to placate every person of no faith. We will answer to God for our injuries to every person and Jessica and her parents are trying to stop acknowledgement to God by removing a physical sign meant to console and inspire. Their Judgement will be commensurate with how well they succeeded in denying God His Fatherhood. Ours also will be judged on our faults, including not standing up against the devil in all his forms!

  8. Cuttlefish
    2 years ago

    For those commenters who insist that the first amendment is being abused in this case, or that the other students' right to have the prayer there is being violated, please read the judge's decision in this case. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about this finding; it is completely expected, completely in line with previous rulings. The residents of Cranston who are crying in protest now are not having their rights reined in, but rather their misbegotten privilege. That the banner was in place for decades does not suddenly (or even eventually) make it constitutionally protected. It has been used to discriminate a non- Christian out-group from a Christian in-group majority, which is precisely what the first amendment is intended to protect against.

  9. Cuttlefish
    2 years ago

    Your story is more accurate than most; this is the first I have seen that (accurately) mentions that Jessica was not the first to notice. All too often, the stories have glossed over that detail, allowing commenters to claim it was all "just one person". On the other hand, your "at least one religious leader" claim takes a quote from a gathering of many local religious leaders who were speaking in support of Jessica and in opposition to those who have issued threats. Lastly, your opening paragraph, while accurate, might more accurately note that the banner has been covered, not "after a teenaged student there complained", but rather after a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional. Jessica's complaints alone were not enough to get the school to do the right thing.

    I urge your readers to condemn those who have threatened and bullied Jessica, and to stand with her in support of the first amendment rights which protect believers and unbelievers alike from having their government take sides with one faith or another, to the exclusion of others. Jessica's fight is yours as well, and those who oppose her are acting against the long term interests of all faith communities.

  10. Brian
    2 years ago

    the tone of this article seesm sympathetic to her...

    not sure why that is...

    bullies? maybe they are religious teens who feel (correctly) that their ability to publically proclaim their beleifs is being perseuted...she's the bully as far as I am concerned.

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