Teenager Faces Public Outrage Over School Prayer Lawsuit

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Jessica Ahlquist, a 16-year-old-junior at Cranston High School West, is an outspoken atheist who believes that prayer should not be on display in public schools. Last month she expressed her views at school board hearings and a federal judge ruled in her favor deeming prayer's presence at Cranston High School to be unconstitutional. In retaliation, residents have threatened Ahlquist and others like State Representative Peter G. Palumbo have called her "an evil little thing." 

Jessica talks about being an atheist and the reactions against her within the community. Sarah Barringer Gordon, Professor of History and Constitutional Law at the University of Pennsylvania, joins the conversation.


Jessica Ahlquist and Sarah Barringer Gordon

Produced by:

Kristen Meinzer

Comments [6]


When you read the "info" at the cowardly Anti Jessica Ahlquist FB page now titled "Atheism is a Mental Disorder" you will should ask yourself the question..."Would a PATRIOTIC person who SUPPORTS the constitution let the banner exist for so long? Why did no Christian demand the banner to be taken down as it violated the 1st Amendment?"

How Un-American of the entire staff and student body of Cranston High School West to let that banner exist for so long. Should we ask the administration of the school to conduct a review of the Social Studies department to make sure they are teaching the Constitution???

Feb. 07 2012 07:05 PM

Mark - When you start a claim "everyone including the judge seem to have missed ...", perhaps you have missed something. The courts are clear that you can't have freedom OF religion unless you also have freedom FROM religion. As for your other claim, atheism is in no "imposed" by taking the banner down. To use another analogy, there was no religious test (e.g., recite the Lord's Prayer) when you got your driver's license. This does not mean the state says you must an atheist to drive! A secular government makes no claims, one way or the other, on faith.

Feb. 03 2012 08:27 AM
Mark from United States

What everyone including the judge seem to have missed is that the constitution guarentees is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. Atheism is a religion in its own right. Their core belief is that there is no God. For them to try impose that belive on those of us who believe is just wrong. It is just as wrong as teachers leading classes prayers. A proper responce I believe should have been to allow her to post her apposing view.

Feb. 03 2012 06:47 AM
Chris from ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha

Jessica and the courts are correct, there is no place for public, school-endorsed prayer in public schools.

It is telling how childish her critics have been. Threatening a 16 year old? A state representative calling her 'evil?' How absurd. These kinds of anti-atheist "Christians" do more harm for their own cause they are really anti-Christian.

@Ed, schools don't have to respect religion and not doing so does not support atheism in any way. Religion shouldn't be mentioned at all unless in a cultural history class. A blank piece of paper is a blank piece of paper, not an atheist manifesto.

Feb. 02 2012 08:29 PM
comon sense from Earth

The followers of this religion are threatening a child.
If a state does not sponsor A religion, it does not mean that it sponsors not believing. It just does not speak to the subject. How would you feel if the state endorsed Islam & had Islamic prayers? Then the Islamists could threaten "Christians"

Feb. 02 2012 12:06 PM
Ed from Larchmont

A school can't support a religion, of course, but at the same time it has to respect religion: to not do so would be to support atheism or agnosticism, which are two specific philosophies which it can't 'establish' either.

Feb. 02 2012 08:32 AM

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