Friday, January 20, 2012

Awesome activist of the week: Jessica Ahlquist

Has anyone else been following the events surrounding Jessica Ahlquist?  This brave 16 year old rightly called out a religious poster (pictured here) hung in her Rhode Island public high school which contained a school prayer.  After a lengthy legal battle between the school and the ACLU in which Ahlquist served as the plaintiff, the school has finally been ordered to take the prayer poster down (though as of now the poster has just been covered with a different banner and not actually removed).  Obviously, this kind of institutional religious endorsement is unconstitutional, so when she began the complaints against the poster and finally won the legal case, it shouldn’t have been a big deal, right?  Wrong. TONS of people in her school and community have been attacking her over the course of these events, and now that she won the case, the discrimination is getting even worse.  Here are just a few sickening examples of the harassment she’s receiving:

-        State Representative Peter Polombo called her "an evil little thing," a "clapping seal" and a "pawn star.”  This guy probably needs a few emails ( or phone calls ((401) 785-2882) reminding him that grown men/elected officials should refrain from bullying teenagers.
-        Freedom from Religion Foundation attempted to send Jessica a dozen roses, but every Florist in Rhode Island refused to fill the order.  Stay classy Rhode Island.
-       But the scariest part of all is the huge number of people harassing her over the internet and issuing actual threats against her.  Below are just a few examples of what people are saying online, there’s an even more extensive (though not complete) list here.  But be warned, they are truly awful and hateful.  
“We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”
“Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho”
“hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”
So far all I can find is that the school district has disciplined ONE student – and they only received detention.  These comments have come from many different people; mildly disciplining one of them is NOT sufficient.  Police, however, are in the process of investigating possible threats.

Through all of this torment, however, Jessica has impressively come out with a positive outlook.  She says, the entire debacle was “worth it” and it even caused her to become more confident in herself and allowed her to find a community of support through like-minded individuals and secular organizations.  Kudos to you Jessica!  You are an impressive and brave individual! 

You can read more about her reactions to the events on her blog

If you want to support Jessica, please consider donating to this scholarship fund for her.

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