Atheist Teen Jessica Ahlquist Bombarded with Death, Rape Threats over Cranston High School West Prayer Banner Lawsuit
The Rhode Island teen who successfully fought to have a Christian prayer banner removed from her high school has been bombarded with rape and death threats, called “evil” by her state representative and discriminated against by local businesses.
Mail Online reports that 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist, a student at Cranston High School West, plans to remain in school and graduate on schedule despite the furor over her lawsuit and the fact that she’s already missed school because of the tension.
“Let’s be clear: I intend to walk across the stage on my graduation day in 2013 with a Cranston West diploma in my hand,” she wrote on Twitter.
After unsuccessful attempts to persuade school officials to remove the banner, which features a prayer a student wrote in 1963, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Ahlquist on the grounds that the banner violates the First Amendment. Ahlquist explained:
“The Christian- Catholic prayer may bring comfort to the majority of students in my school but it sends a different message to the large population of students of other faiths, or in my case, none. The prayer’s presence in the school promotes and endorses the ideals of Christianity and the concept of the single heavenly father. As not all students feel that this is true, and I am one of those students, I firmly believe that it should not be on display in a public school and is in direct violation of my and other students’ civil rights… The prayer does not belong in a public school and that is why I have come forward to challenge it.”
On January 11, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled that the banner indeed violates the principle of separation of church and state.
“No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that,” Judge Lagueux wrote in his ruling. Also:
While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve. At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction. The Court concludes that Cranston’s purposes in installing and, more recently, voting to retain the Prayer Mural are not clearly secular…
The retention of the Prayer Mural is no doubt a nod to Cranston West’s tradition and history, yet that nod reflects the nostalgia felt by some members of the community who remember fondly when the community was sufficiently homogeneous that the religion of its majority could be practiced in public schools with impunity.
“I’m so glad and proud that the right decision was made and that the constitution was upheld,” Ahlquist declared after Judge Lagueux’s ruling.
Ahlquist has been bombarded by angry online commentary, threats of rape and death, insults from her community and even her elected state representative and discriminated against by local businesses. AlterNet published a partial list of some of the threats against the teenager:
“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho”
“I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”
“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
“Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”
“lol I wanna stick that bitch lol”
“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”
“Brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water”
“”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”
“shes not human shes garbage”
“wen the atheist dies, they believe they will become a tree, so we shld chop her down, turn her into paper then PRINT THE BIBLE ON HER.”
“May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”
“definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”
“yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”
“If this banner comes down, hell i hope the school burns down with it!”
“U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”
“Nothing bad better happen tomorrow #justsaying #fridaythe13th”
“How does it feel to be the most hated person in RI right now? Your a puke and a disgrace to the human race.”
“I think everyone should just fight this girl”
“I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”
“literally that bitch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”
“Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her”
“gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”
“I found it, what a little bitch lol I wanna snuff her”
“if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”
“nail her to a cross”
“When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”
Even her state representative, Democrat Peter Palumbo, called her an “evil little thing,” words used on T-shirts sold to support a college fund for Ahlquist. So far, more than $30,000 has been raised.
Local businesses have also shunned the teen. Four separate florists have refused to deliver flowers to her, leading to a formal complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF).
The banner has been covered with a tarp. But the fight is far from over; the Huffington Post reports that a meeting is scheduled for February 16 at which school officials will hear public comments regarding the banner battle. The school board will then decide whether or not to challenge the judge’s ruling.
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