13 January 2012

And what I'm frightened of is that they call it God's love

Cranston High School West in Rhode Island lost the court battle to keep its school prayer banner on display.  Not a big surprise, given the precedent that publicly funded schools have no business officially sanctioning prayer.

Secular activists are lauding the young Jessica Ahlquist for her central role in the push to remove the banner as well as having the courage to come out as an atheist to an intolerant community.

For those who haven't followed the story, here's an image of the offending banner:
At its core, the banner's message really is a good philosophy for the school's students: do your best to grow mentally, morally, and physically; be kind and helpful; be honest; be a good sport; be a good person in general.  I don't think anyone should have a problem with those values.

What is a problem is that they are encapsulated in a prayer.  The assertion that these virtues come from a "heavenly father" rather than within the individual implies that engaging in prayer is essential to being a good student.  No public school should be saying such a thing to its student body.
In this country people are free to practice whatever religion they choose, or no religion at all; this certainly applies to students and faculty at a public school.  The school itself, however, is not a person, and ought to be neutral on matters of religion.

In the wake of the court's decision, the good Christians of Jessica's hometown are letting her know how they feel about her role in the lawsuit.  Sweet, benign messages about how they'll "pray for her" and hope that she opens her heart to Jesus, right?  At worst, a fire-and-brimstone warning about the eternal consequences of her atheism?

Wrong.  Her fellow students tweeted about jumping her after school, someone posted her home address on internet forums, and one "AJ St. Angelo" mused about murdering her.  Below are a few samples:

All of this venom and hatred over a banner that shouldn't have been put up in the first place. Read the rest of them on JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks, or catch up on the whole story over at Friendly Atheist.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License