Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jessica Ahlquist has won her court case!

What a great welcome-to-the-blogosphere gift for the Cincinatheist to receive. I have been following the fight of 16-year-old Cranston, Rhode Island high-schooler Jessica Ahlquist for the past year. Jessica is an atheist who took her high school to court over the Christian prayer banner hanging in the school's auditorium after the school's administration refused to take it down when asked. The banner reads:

Our Heavenly Father.

Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.


Well, tonight the court released their decision, and Jessica was victorious. You can read the entire, 40 page court decision here if you're into that kind of thing.

Jessica and her family put up with lots of hate and bile both from within and outside of their community during this whole process. But she bravely persevered and even became part of the activist atheist community, doing things such as giving talks over the past year for organizations like the Secular Student Alliance.

Hemant, over at the Friendly Atheist, has set up a Chip-In account for those who would like to donate to a scholarship fund to Jessica so that she can go to a wonderful college. One where, as Hemant put it, "she can be respected in a way that many of the people at her high school don't." If you'd like to throw in a couple bucks for Jessica, click below.

You can read about the decision in the Providence, RI newspaper here. (Also, for fun you can read the comments on that story where the Christians are tripping over themselves and working themselves into a tizzy about this being an assault on their freedom of religion.)

This needs to serve as a warning to school boards and local governments around the country. Pious displays of religious symbols on public property and in public buildings could end up costing a lot of money if legal action is pursued. So just use your brains and take them down when called upon (or better yet, don't put them up in the first place.) Because due to the hard-headedness of the Cranston West school board, the taxpayers of the local community and the school are now on the hook for court costs that will have to be paid with money that could have, nay, should have, gone towards educating the students.

Congrats again on your bravery Jessica. Oh, and don't forget to add her blog to your feed/reader to keep up with her musings.

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