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'American Humanist Association' sets up scholarship fund for atheist student

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 20th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

A high school student who voiced her opposition to a banner at her Rhode Island high school now has a Web site dedicated to raising money for her college. Sixteen-year-old Jessica Ahlquist said that a banner on display at her school, Cranston High School West violated the separation of church and state. The banner has since been removed, and a school committee last week decided not to appeal.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The American Humanist Association, a national association that says there's no proof for the existence of God is now managing a scholarship fund set up for Ahlquist.

The association says Ahlquist was targeted with online threats after she challenged the constitutionality of the display at her high school. The association says she stood up against her critics "with class and style."

Ahlquist has not wavered from her course. "Roger Williams founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1636 as a state of religious freedom," Ahlquist says on her Web site. "He had been banished from Massachusetts due to his religious beliefs and he wanted to establish a place where everyone was equal, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).

"I have lived in Rhode Island all my life. Even as someone as young as myself I have already seen frequent and flagrant disregard for our state's history and even the law. Not to mention the countless times I have seen people go out of their way to make others feel excluded. With opposing the school prayer in my public high school, Cranston West, I have experienced a sickening amount of hostility and hatred.
 
"And of course, we're seeing that same mentality again this season with the feud over what to call the holiday tree displayed in the statehouse in Providence. Our governor, Lincoln Chafee, referred to the tree as a 'holiday tree,' rather than a 'Christmas tree' in order to be inclusive of all religions and winter holidays," Ahlquist says.

Blogger Hemant Mehta started a campaign at the Friendly Atheist website to raise money for Ahlquist, and more than $40,000 has since been collected. The fundraiser concludes at the end of this month.

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