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Student Harassed After Successfully Having School Prayer Mural Removed

Student Harassed After Successfully Having School Prayer Mural Removed

When high school student Jessica Ahlquist requested that her school remove a giant mural in the cafeteria with a Christian prayer on it, telling the administration that it made her uncomfortable and that it violated the constitution, she likely didn’t expect it to result in a long, drawn out court battle.  But school officials at Cranston West refused her, and next the American Civil Liberties Union, making numerous public scenes in support of leaving the mural as it was.

Yet it was the school board’s public proselytizing that actually did them in, as it was used as evidence proving that the mural was in fact intended to be a Christian display, a no-no in a taxpayer funded public school.  According to the judge’s ruling:

“The Cranston School Committee and its subcommittee held four open meetings to consider the fate of the Mural. At those meetings a significantly lopsided majority of the speakers spoke passionately, and in religious terms, in favor of retaining the Prayer Mural. Various speakers read from the bible, spoke about their personal religious convictions, threatened Plaintiff with damnation on Judgment Day and suggested that she will go to hell. The atmosphere was such that the Superintendent of Schools felt compelled to discuss his own religious beliefs at length when he made his recommendation to the Committee that they vote to retain the Prayer Mural.

“Similarly, five of the seven School Committee members expressed avowals of their own religious beliefs at the meeting, including two of those who voted against retaining the Mural,” Lagueux continued. “This is precisely the sort of ‘civic divisiveness’ that the Supreme Court’s Establishment Clause cases repeatedly warn against. When focused on the Prayer Mural, the activities and agenda of the Cranston School Committee became excessively entangled with religion, exposing the Committee to a situation where a loud and passionate majority encouraged it to vote to override the constitutional rights of a minority.”

The school board is still deciding whether to appeal the ruling.  But of a bigger concern is the attacks on the student, which have grown beyond cyberbullying and now include outright threats of violence requiring police intervention.

Yesterday, one Twitter user said “this girl honestly needs to be punched in the face.”

Another user bragged “your home address posted online i cant wait to hear about you getting curb stomped you ****ing worthless c***.”

And some users using their real names identified themselves as classmates of Jessica Ahlquist, the plaintiff, one saying “definelty laying it down on this athiest tomorrow anyone else?”

In a post on the blog today, Steve Ahlquist, Ahlquist’s uncle and founder of the Humanists of Rhode Island, said “To the credit of the Cranston School Committee, when I contacted them with my concerns, they were quick to assure me that the Cranston Police have been investigating these threats since last night, and that they are taking this issue very seriously.”

Ironically, the now banned mural at one point implores “Our Heavenly Father” to “Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.”  If only the mural’s supporters could follow such sage advice.

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Photo credit: wikimedia commons

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8:23AM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Er -- in general the PRINCIPLES that people like my great grandfather many times removed (Colonel Ebenezer Reynolds) died in the Revolution to establish need to be respected. From the beginning there were those that didn't respect them, that's why they got enshrined in the Bill of Rights and written about in various treaties and letters by the founders.

Let's see, what was that quote -- oh yes, from the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797 --:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Muslim] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

And no, I'm not a Muslim, in fact I was a Christian until we had daughters and I spent some time thinking about theology. We are now goddess worshipers, the whole family -- but our religion shouldn't be publicly enshrined in schools either, NO RELIGION SHOULD.

10:58PM PST on Feb 4, 2012

I hope each and every one of those little turds gets hefty fine imposed upon them, if not a night in the pokey. It's so sad when "Christians" show their true colors--and the fact that they CANNOT play well with others.
"Thou shalt try REALLY HARD not to kill anyone...unless they worship a different invisible man in the sky than you do." -George Carlin

10:52AM PST on Feb 4, 2012

mixed feelings....

prohibiting a belief displayed in public can cut both ways.

i don't like little rightwing-hot-gods, BUT i'm also not fond of
some materialistic agenda being enforced by school-thought-police either.

Tolerance is best when applied to either side of an argument.
Perhaps true tolerance would be to allow a public school billboard designated
for respectful free expression of all kinds of postings.

9:01PM PST on Feb 1, 2012

It's an absolutely predictable response when the mentally disadvantaged can't appeal to reason or logic. Their parents must be real pieces of work too.

2:42PM PST on Feb 1, 2012

If only every single person could hear and understand the constiution of America our,planet full of people have turned barbaricso they are sadistic and wild .They undo what is right and do the unthinkable that President Lincoln would roll over in his grave at the sight of todays date,killing defenceles dogs that help the disabled and for free so not one human has to lift their lazy finger to help anyone but themselves,I hope to write every senator in the states,I have changed and I'm not going to allow these criminal minded people to do harm ,the police s hands are tied ,the government says who they can let stay or go ,they can't seem to win,they need our help.Lazyness is the number one issue that causes people to go nuts,in the bible it has a scripture about idol hands do alot of damage,no President can controll that-then maybe something like an earth disaster might wake them up,maybe.

4:52AM PST on Jan 30, 2012

How about a beautiful piece of art with a sunrise, or anything else from nature? We all agree that nature is a beautiful thing, right?
Religious stuff belongs in churches, private schools, or homes. Not in public schools. Good, and very brave, of this girl to stand up for justice! It's not easy to do!

7:47PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

LOL, oh my,,here we go again,,i have to wonder,,is she muslim? So far i've seen allot of other religions trying to bash in the christian one,,,i would love to live in a world where there was NO religion at all,,,no muslims, no judaic, no christian,,nothing at all,,,John Lennon had it sooo right,,"Imagine there's no heaven above or hell below us,,," ~Peace

3:36PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Christian Terrorists Harrassing People is not new

2:04PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

World's going bleak without religion or its legacy.
An empty wall awaits.
Oh wait, there's graffiti

12:30PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

There is supposed to be a separation of church and state and religion does not belong in a public school, period!

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