She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion. In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group. The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.

“I was amazed,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, which is based in Wisconsin and has given Jessica $13,000 from support and scholarship funds. “We haven’t seen a case like this in a long time, with this level of revilement and ostracism and stigmatizing…”

For Jessica, who was baptized in the Catholic Church but said she stopped believing in God at age 10, the prayer was an affront. “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here…

Last March…the school board voted 4-3 to keep the prayer…The Rhode Island chapter of the A.C.L.U. then asked Jessica if she would serve as a plaintiff in a lawsuit; it was filed the next month…

Does she empathize in any way with members of her community who want the prayer to stay?

“I’ve never been asked this before,” she said. A pause, and then: “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.”

Though the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have been at the core of our national standards for centuries one may hope that Cranston, Rhode Island catches up sooner rather than later.

  1. Hmeyers2 says:

    Most of you have the issue with the fact this girl is hot.

    That is all. Thank you and good night.

    • Mextli: ABO says:

      Yes she is hot. I assume she is also untroubled by the thought of sin so she must “do it” without a second thought. Q.E.D.

  2. NewFormatSux says:

    Bobbo, no conscience exceptions for churches under Obamacare, except a one year extension to figure out how they will comply.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and social critic says:

      Churches should not give healthcare services at all. They aren’t qualified or licensed to do so. …….Oh! You probably mean healthcare institutions engaged in the provision of medical services?===aka not a church AT ALL!

      All such organizations are CORPORATIONS. What are you, and acolyte of Mitt, I’m out of work too, Romney? In what manner do these CORPORATIONS have a “conscience?” The same conscious that allows themselves to be called non profit and community based while they turn the poor away once certain revenue over expense ratio’s are hit?

      That kind of conscience? FIE on their perfidy.===All good and righteous people agree: you can serve mammon or god. Which do you think a corporation is set up to do?

      Ha, ha. It really sucks to believe something that is against the law. Ohhhhh the humanity of it all.

      • Dr Spearmint Fur says:

        They’ll pray the gay away. Like Bachmann’s government funded clinic.

        • Mextli: ABO says:

          I wish something would work.

        • orchidcup says:

          And God saw everything that he made, and behold it was very good.
          – Genesis 1:31

          And it repented the Lord that he had made man on earth, and it grieved him at his heart
          – Genesis 6:6

          I am not surprised that religious fanatics are confused.

      • GregAllen says:

        bobbo said,
        >>Churches should not give healthcare services at all. They aren’t qualified or licensed to do so.

        My church started the #2 ranked hospital in our city.

        • GregAllen says:

          And the Catholics started the #1 ranked hospital.

          (I’m not aware that atheist groups started any, BTW. I could be wrong.)

          • tcc3 says:

            The oldest American hospital in existence is New York’s famed Bellevue hospital, established in 1736. The hospital, initially a six-bed hospital, was not created by any religious institution but was a municipal hospital created by a secular, non-religious government.


          • Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

            It’s always great to see that the Christian Church sometimes does good in the field of medicine. Of course, we all know that this hasn’t always been the case. There were times in history when the Church was arguably the single greatest impediment to the advance of western medicine, especially through their prohibition of the dissection of the human body and the critical anatomical discoveries that result.

            Once religious people form their interpretations of God’s will as revealed through the Holy Scriptures, no logic can dissuade them from acting against their imagined Creator’s wishes. Fortunately, the Christians of today realize that in many respects, Christians of yesteryear were simply wrong. It’s just a shame that the Creator of the Universe is such a poor communicator that even his most faithful followers often misinterpret his instructions with tragic results.

            Perhaps this girl Jessica has a good point. Diminishing the influence of religion in public life long ago would almost certainly have resulted in the further advance of medical science today.

          • Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

            Proofing my own comment above tells me I should have said “no logic can dissuade them from acting to enforce their imagined Creator’s wishes.” My original wording said just the opposite.

        • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and social critic says:

          Greg–its a glossy generality to say “a church started a hospital.” Ok–they “started” one==but how? You mean the very same people who attended a given church also did something else? If they were all farmers, would you say that church fed all the people?

          But when glossy generalities is all you’ve got, then that is all you’ve got. And thats all you do have.

          Churches don’t start anything==they people who attend churches do. Churches only suck up capital and spend it on golden candle sticks in Rome. Protestants?==they spend it on bibles for Nigeria and campaigns to put homosexuals to death. But they don’t start anything.

          I’ll say it again: corporations ( or associations) are not people.

          Funny how the dogma of religion so effortless melds with the dogma of Republican Politics.

          Yea, verily.

  3. GregAllen says:

    Separation of church and state is a win-win.

    It’s good for the church.
    It’s good for the state.

  4. NewFormatSux says:

    Bobbo, it’s not hospitals I’m talking about here, though that also happens. It is any Catholic institution, and the health insurance they provide for their employees. They are no longer allowed to buy insurance that covers things that go against their faith.

    Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and social critic says:

      NFS–that is a subtle nuance. Under whatever guiding principle you wish, I think the argument can be made either way that “a religious organization” should or should not be able to provide services/benefits one way or the other. There are pros and cons to all we do and there is an ever evolving/entangling mix of “religion” with other aspects of life. In this case religion with employment. Two different things. While a religion might be given more leeway to exercise its discrimination as it is wont to do, that is balanced by the conflicting obligations of adding to this the employment obligations.

      You can serve god or mammon. Not often both.

  5. Corey says:

    Atheist Fundamentalism is still Fundamentalism

    All Fundamentalists are wrong

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and social critic says:

      If there is no god, how is atheist fundamentalism wrong?

      If there is or isn’t a god, how are any fundamental religions right?

      Fuzzy/incorrect thinking.

    • Dr Spearmint Fur says:

      Corey, truer words were never said. Fundamentalism is a blight.

      • bobbo, words have meaning says:

        Corey didn’t say fundamentalism was a blight and I don’t think that is what he meant. He meant what he said: they are “wrong.” What is wrong about the truth, unknowable as it may be?

        And while everything is definitional, especially the distinction between/among words, some word venn diagrams have no overlap.

    • Johan says:

      Atheism lacks dogma, so fundamentalism is probably the wrong word. And this girl is right. The US constitution agrees with her.

  6. Corey says:

    Fundamentalists – as in acting on your beliefs to matter what is true, reasonable or sane – is wrong

    • Post #1- bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      You already said that Corey. so now tell us how acting on atheist fundamental beliefs is wrong? You know, like I do every day as do many many religious types because you can’t tell the difference. Being an atheist is like that.

      What is bouncing around your empty little head?

      Give us a clue?

      Give a SPECIFIC EXAMPLE 0f how acting on atheist fundamental beliefs is wrong. I’ll bet you a bible to a pile of used beer bottles that what is “wrong” has nothing to do with atheism.

      Prove me wrong, or yourself a fool.


  7. NewFormatSux says:

    Bobbo, you’ve just established my point. The Obama admin is making churches either drop their services or violate their beliefs. Any church organization that the government deems is not religious enough, if they hire any employees, are covered under the new regulations. Note that the exemption for what the administration considers an actual wholly religious organization is up to the administration, and they could eliminate that exemption entirely. The current state is that they are going after whatever religious groups which they consider backwards.

    • Post #1- bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      NFS–so what is the “real” problem? Let me guess: the worst case scenario==some church hires a woman with a healthy libido and she uses abortion as birth control? Whats the problem? Why should an employer be allowed to interfere in the healthcare services its employees received? ALL THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO is the quality of services delivered to the employer during the work relationship.

      If the woman is devout and chaste, whats wrong with having abortion services covered that she will never use?

      What is the issue here except some f*ckwads trying to coerce the FREEEEEEEEE choices of other people by LORDING the need of a paying job over them?

      Do you love FREEEEEEEEDOM or not?

      • NewFormatSux says:

        There you go again. You object to the church, so you want to force them to shut down their services unless they do what you want. That is the violation of religious freedom. People are willing to provide freedom of worship but not freedom of religion.

  8. NewFormatSux says:

    The church is the one buying the health insurance.

  9. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Being Totally Correct that this NEW FORMAT SUCKS, its sad to see you evidencing the stupidity of those of equal faith operating far below your ken. Lets parse:

    There you go again. /// Yes, I’m boringly consistent.

    You object to the church, // I do, but haven’t here.

    so you want to force them to shut down their services /// No, that becomes their choice.

    unless they do what you want. /// I certainly hope you aren’t over generalizing a long long fully developed and followed line of Supreme Court Cases both liberal and conservative with “me.” That wouldn’t be honest.

    That is the violation of religious freedom. /// No its not.

    People are willing to provide freedom of worship but not freedom of religion. /// The distinction you highlight is not clear to me at all.

    The church is the one buying the health insurance. /// Correct and the Church is “free” to buy the whole pig or not pig at all. What is good for the church is good for the pigs. “The Church” however you might want to parse it is free to worship as it wishes. Excommunicate sinners, condemn abortionists to hell, pray for the sinner or for their immediate exit to hell==but back in the secular world, if they want to buy insurance, they get to buy insurance. Insurance: covering all the health services whether you like them or not.

    Whats the issue here? Any “religious” person will get the FREEEEEEDOM to follow their faith, or avail themselves of MODERN SCIENCE. Its a basic logical/emotional/catechism error to equate the prejudices of man with the dictates of God. Where in the bible does it command that one not have full health insurance? Stop being a stooge. You and the Church can WORSHIP all you want==but you only get to bully and coerce your sheeple just short of interfering in what healthcare they can finally choose for themselves. A pox on you. Go ask your minister if you can get the cure.

    Again: what do you have against FREEEEEEEDOM? Freedom: a continuing delicate balance of all the competing rights we have. Where are the lines to be drawn. What is a right vs a preference? Many general rights end where my specific nose starts.

    Ain’t FREEEEEDOM a bitch?

    Yea, verily.

  10. NewFormatSux says:

    So you are forcing them to buy insurance to which they object instead of the insurance they would like to buy. Yes, both are available now. But due to rules passed by Obama, only one will be allowed. That is where you are interfering with their religious freedom.

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

      NFS==ok, for the LAST TIME: separate what is “religious” with what is secular in nature. What you are doing is using the claim of religion to slop over into what should be non-religious personal choices.

      Big distinction between forcing one to have insurance for abortions verses making you have the abortion. DO YOU SEE THAT DIFFERENCE?

      It goes to who/what level has the freedom? The church or each individual person? I do favor the individual person have as many choices as possible. You start with no abortions and rapidly move to no birth control, then no homos, then no certain races, then no services on days of worship and all the other silly nonsense anyone given the power to do so will exercise just because they can.

      Yes, there is a certain notion of “freedom” in not having to offer insurance, and in not having to offer insurance with whatever restrictions you like, but there is another kind of freedom in not allowing religions to force those limitations onto their devoted.

      And another kind of freedom that says if you don’t want restricted insurance then don’t be a member of that church and there we come full circle to: what is really religious and what is really just the exercise of power.

      Of course, you can continue to disagree. That is where the law and majority rule come into play. Churches are also free to move to Somalia if they don’t like the overly restrictive rules in the USA that allow them to think and advocate any silly assed thing they wish but can’t force restricted insurance on their EMPLOYEES at the same time.

      Silly to think anything but less regarding religion on such issues. Are you for god or mammon? Institutions or individuals? Overreaching power of a few exercised over the many, or the many?

      And so forth. My last post on the issue unless you raise a new point. Repetition is too religious to me–on a par with the mind control of mantras leading to dogma and people like you (on this issue) that can’t think of an issue except in one way.

  11. tcc3 says:

    This is yet another reason why tying health coverage to the employer is a poor model.

  12. MartinJJ says:

    After 49 years the youngsters finally start to become interested again into the Constitution. Well done girl! Let’s keep things separated. This is something all the bible shouters (or others) here should have done 49 years ago already. It’s the Constitution. Not some variation of your believes that applies here.


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