Police in Rhode Island are investigating a threat sent to a teenager at the center of a dispute over a high school prayer banner. WJAR-TV reported that the handwritten note to Jessica Ahlquist warns that police will not watch her forever and that “we will get you.’’ The writer encourages Ahlquist, 16, to leave Rhode Island. Police in Cranston are investigating. Ahlquist, who says she is an atheist, challenged the constitutionality of a banner at Cranston High School West which contained the words “Our Heavenly Father’’ and “Amen.’’ In January, a federal judge ordered the banner removed.
Man that is a VERY frightening note to receive for anyone, much less a sixteen year old child.
For those of you unfamiliar with Jessica Ahlquist, and this controversy over the school banner, here is a quick snapshot of what happened from the Wikipedia page:
In July 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to the school superintendent on behalf of an unnamed parent who complained about the banner. Initially, school officials thought the banner could be modified, avoiding the prohibitive expense of a lawsuit. Ahlquist had noticed the banner in her first year in high school. After reading about the complaint, she decided to sit in on the school board meetings. She also created a Facebook page to raise support for the cause. At an August 2010 meeting of the Cranston School Committee, a subcommittee was asked to make recommendations about the disposition of the banner; Ahlquist attended the public meetings of the subcommittee in November 2010 and February 2011. At the end of the November meeting, out of safety concerns, a police escort was provided for Ahlquist and one other person who spoke in favor of the banner's removal. At a contentious meeting of the full committee, she argued the case for the removal of the banner and a similar display at Bain Middle School. The committee voted 4-3 in favor of keeping the banner in place, despite a budget deficit and the threat of an ACLU lawsuit.
The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU asked Ahlquist if she would serve as a plaintiff in a lawsuit. The suit was filed in April 2011. The Cranston School Committee had made defense arrangements with Joseph V. Cavanagh, Jr. and The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented them without charge.
District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux issued a decision in favor of Ahlquist on January 11, 2012. The decision was in part based on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and the United States Supreme Court's earlier rulings in Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), Lynch v. Donnelly (1984), and Lee v. Weisman (1992).
|A picture of the offending banner courtesy of the Friendly Atheist.|
Though I have not written much about this, I have been following Jessica's situation very carefully and have been stunned at the amount of absolute rage that has been directed at this young teenager.
Some of which is evidenced by this sampling of Twitter responses, many of them sent directly to her.
Now I am aware that some of you will ask how I can be sure these are self identified Christians sending these messages, but just ask yourself who ELSE would get this upset about a religious banner being removed from a school?
Of course in the end it really doesn't matter WHO these people are, the real question is WHY do they feel it is appropriate, or even a necessity, to threaten a child simply because she questioned the legality of posting a religious prayer in a public school and the court's ruled in her favor?
Can I ask a potentially provocative question? If Christianity is founded on the love demonstrated by Jesus, who chose to die on a cross for the sins of man, then why do so many of his followers exhibit such unbridled hatred? And what does that say about how well the message of Christ has been spread by various churches and religious groups?