Coolest Kid At Cranston West

prayer banner And smarter and more articulate than many of the adults connected to this story. According to the Providence Journal, the Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of sophomore Jessica Alquist seeking the removal of a prayer banner from the wall of the school auditorium.  A Baptist minister, himself a Cranston West grad, as well as a rabbi from a Cranston Reform Congregation supported Jessica at a press conference on Monday, correctly seeing that this banner has crossed the line into state sponsorship of religion. Interestingly, another voice of reason in all this has been Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, head of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence who commented on the issue in the diocese’s weekly newspaper. (ProJo 3.19.11)

“[T]he rise and fall of religious faith, Christian or otherwise, in our nation or even in Cranston, doesn’t depend on the fate of the banner. If it has to be removed, so be it,” the bishop wrote. “Faith will survive and the free practice of religion will go on.”

In dismissing “arguments” that no one ever complained before, ACLU director Steven Brown correctly asserts that “It requires a great amount of courage to step forward.” In fact, the young Ms. Ahlquist reports she is already receiving threats. Atheists everywhere wish her well, and are left wondering once again — why are Christians so desperate to pray in school but won’t go to church on Sunday?

31 thoughts on “Coolest Kid At Cranston West”

  1. What did she expect once she attacked? Of course she is getting threats.
    Her father is a foolish man to set her up for what she is getting, putting her out there for attack. And there are crazies out there who are radical. It was
    a very foolish thing to do to just get attention.

  2. That is because you lack faith and have no understanding of Truth. And, yes, more and more Americans are denying God and rejecting relgion–just more signs of what is to come and when it does, you will be begging God for forgiveness. . .just wait.

  3. This is about religious and spiritual freedom and I want to support this student in any way possible.
    Using the masculine term “God the father” is certainly against my Wiccan principles and an outcry would be heard if the words, the Goddess replaced this abomination.

    Consider that if you will.

    As a feminist, it grates in ways too painful to relate here that god the father is rammed down the throats of women since the beginning of patriarchy.
    Whether whatever students believe is their own personal belief and ought not be violated in any way.

    Yes the word “IN GOD WE TRUST” is indeed an abomination but since we do worship money it is altogether appropriate!
    I have nothing but praise for this young student who is very brave and I don’t want her to think she is alone.

    Evelyn Embry

  4. Though this will probably not be believed, I am an atheist. I don’t not wish any harm on this girl, but I do also not think she is especially cool or brave for doing this. With all the suffering in this world I fail to see how getting a poster removed that was written by a former STUDENT of the school and stood for 50 years is such a great accomplishment.

    Myself, I would have just brushed the poster off. Maybe thats cowardice…or maybe its greasing the wheels of society which requires compromise to function.

  5. Aljaž Kozina

    Um, there are thousands of children praying to him in Africa, and they don’t get any more protection than anyone else. Also, how can a name suggest an unbeliever? That’s like saying a name can suggest if someone is gay, black or a completely average person. Surely, sir or maam, you cannot stand Truth. . . thus you insinuate.

  6. Aljaž Kozina

    America may be a country of faith, but it is not a country of one faith – which the banner suggests, praying to a specific god and excluding every person not of that particular religion. If the prayer were to Buddha, it would have been down in a week, I bet.

  7. sorry accidentally posted before completing…
    the potential for disaster is much higher than not, since many failings of the government will simply be blamed on a lack of devotion by the populace and slowly, the society will begin to slowly degrade, minority cultures being wiped out to make room for the expansion of the dominant one. In a non-secular state while the potential for disaster is still there, decisions are made based on logical discourse rather than what we believe our God(s) want us to do based off texts written by humans.

  8. I can understand why she wants it done and the law is on her side, but I can also understand that the banner comes from a different time and that it is kind of a stupid thing to fight over; BUT, Christianity has become more and more prevalent in its association with our American government, even though we were founded with the intention of keeping church and state separate. This lawsuit should be about more than just taking the banner down, it should serve as a message to all religions, “you have no place in our government”.

    We have seen the damage a religious state can cause to culture, innovation, and general social and technological evolution, and while it can be argued that there were many successes (large periods of prosperity and peace); we have seen that all it takes is human nature to abuse the power granted by being a spiritual and political leader shatter all of that. Yes, it can be said that non-secular states can have the same failings, but religion is far more powerful than logic when it comes to the masses and, when human selfishness and ignorance comes into play (which it will, even the most devout person can admit that it does not take much intelligence to rise in a religion, only zealotry and devotion)

  9. Her parents should be held responsible for the hatred of others? That’s pretty unbelievable. It is a shame that people vilify her and her family for standing up for what they believe in (I think that is called…oh…let me think..OH! The Constitution!). But that is not the fault of anyone other than those individuals.

    It is even more repugnant that elected officials are not standing up and saying something about the bullying that is now directed at her. Where is the mayor of Cranston? Where are the school officials? And how can Rep. Palumbo say the things he did and not be taken to task by the GA? She is getting support from around the globe and from many people here in RI. Yet our own elected officials- those sworn to uphold the Constitution- are silent. Shameful.

  10. I agree what is done is done, and the government has ruled. Unfortunately this poor girl is now receiving death threats. She is a child, not an adult and her parents should be held responsible for what this child is going through. They have put their daughters life in jeapordy, and I feel someone in authority needs to protect this child.

  11. Look, what’s done is done. Regardless of what her motives were for bringing attention to the prayer banner were, the simple fact is that the court has ruled against it and unless there’s an appeal and the school wins there’s really nothing anyone can do about it.

    It’s true that in the grand scheme of things, the banner wasn’t HURTING anyone when it was in place. However, it’s also true that the removal of the banner hurts no one. Granted, I’m not too clear on the intricacies of the Christian belief given that I’m an agnostic atheist, but from what I understand, it’s not necessary for a physical representation of your belief in God to be present at all times. It’s just as easy for students to keep what the banner said in mind without needing to read it every day, isn’t it?

    For that matter, if the presence of a banner reminding students to have ‘the desire to do our best’, to ‘be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers’ and to ‘bring credit to Cranston High School West’ is such an issue, the school can always have a new banner created (should they lose an appeal) with the removal of religious aspects. It’s a grand total of six words removed and it’s not as though students can’t do the above just because they’re atheists.

  12. First of all, doink, I never said they bring God’s wrath down upon them; I said when we remove him, we have not His protection. Surely, sir or maam, you cannot stand Truth. . . thus you name call. Typical. Your name suggests an unbeliever for sure. There is only one God, whether muslims believe that or not and whether you do or not. . You have a lovely day. YOU are now added to my prayers, whether you want them or not.

  13. It’s difficult to take seriously folk who believe in a talking snake, a virgin giving birth and a fictional character who returned from the dead then claimed he paid for everyone’s sins with his life. No wonder younger Americans are rejecting religion in increasing numbers.

  14. You are quite mistaken here, muslims, jew and christians are all monotheistic, but muslims do not think your god is the same as theirs. christians and jews I believe do indeed believe in the same god.

    Personally I think all 3 religions have the same base, there’s a lot of things that are similar between Qu’ran and the Bible, but to me that’s more a form of “proof” they were established by mankind.
    You say there is one God, and because they say, a banner (that is against the contitution and law) in school has to be removed, they bring god’s wrath upon them, so he lets his followers be angry and condecending towards them…
    the guy in the sky has time to make 2 human lives miserable, while his faithful followers in let’s say africa are starving to death? and you actually pray and like this person?

    I’m not sure who is more evil here, you or your deity

  15. She has a pretty solid case with “it’s against the law” as main argument, not sure you can argue about that in court….

    If she’s doing this for the money, she’s doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, but that’s it.

  16. It also wouldn’t hurt anyone if it weren’t there, so that’s not a valid argument, it’s against the law, and it is also a form of discrimination, it inherently says, if you don’t believe in (this) god, we don’t want you to preform well in school, as you needs god’s help for it.

    You should also read up on the constitution of your country, read the FIRST amendment, the very first one.
    That’s what the founding fathers wanted for their future country, look how it is now, they would role around in their graves if they saw what happened…

  17. I feel so very sorry for this child, misguided, misled by know-nothing parents, obviously atheists. The banner hurt nobody and the last I heard, muslims, Jews, and Christians all believe in God. It is the Jesus person of God that non-Christians deny. . .so she and daddy have set her up for abuse now by those who have a right to be angry that God (the God of muslims, Christians, and Jews as there is only one God) has been removed from the school. And we wonder why bad things happen once God is removed, thereby telling Him we no longer need Him, the Creator. Jess and Daddy just need lots of prayer, whether atheists agree or not.

  18. Annie Messier

    The whole separation of church and state is a mystery to me. Is hardly seems enforced at all. There is the phrases on American currency that Congress approved in the mid-19th century that everyone more or less ignores, plus the phrases in the universal Pledge of Allegiance, plus religious leaders who share political views and even fund political causes, plus who-knows what else that has become so ingrained in our culture, we’d rather lash out at those who challenge it than question why it’s there.
    I looked up a Rhode Island Senate journal recently to see what had been approved at their meeting. The Senate opened with the Pledge of Allegiance and, more interesting to me as this was a meeting of elected officials at our State House, ended with this:
    Heavenly Father, guide us in the ways of peace. May we show loyalty towards one another and be
    worthy of the trust you have placed in us. Amen.

    I’m not bothered by this because I’m not an athiest, but I’m surprised that so many other folks are cool with it.

  19. Don’t be such a drama queen. You’re not my nemesis or anything. You’re just a drag.

    And I wasn’t talking about your double post. I didn’t even notice it. I only read about a third of everything you post here, and most of that I only skim.

  20. We meet again Wess. I posted twice because for some reason my post didn’t show up when I first typed it in. Sorry to be repetitive, but I made my point. Sadly, nobody wanted to have a rational discussion about it. Take care and may God bless you all.

  21. This case has really brought all the crazy people out of the woodwork.

    Also, does Rob have his own sockpuppet now?

  22. I think I hear what you’re saying. You pay every day for your difference in ways both physical and psychological. To glom onto the canvas prayer is to ignore the ways students like you are marginalized.

  23. I bet she just wants to fight for the money. She makes a big fucking stink out of this for no reason. I go to West now and every day I get harassed and threatened for no reason and she gets what she wants and sues the school for stupid words. The school takes her out of classes because she was being harassed. Well I was punched inside my eye socket this past September and nothing was done to correct the problem and all she gets is like a group of people to like fight to take down a few words? Well if she doesn’t like it then change schools. It’s just a few words. She can deal with it like I have to deal with taking off ALL Jewish holidays. Like Allen Fung mayor of Cranston said. He will not support this case or will pay any money to her because she is wasting her time and probably wants the money for college or something. Who cares what it says. It doesn’t bother any other kid who isn’t catholic and who doesn’t believe in god so why does it have to bother her. Does she want to like be popular and win a case and get all that money? I think so.

  24. I found it interesting on the news the other night, when this girl was asked how she got involved in this lawsuit, she said that the ACLU contacted her. She wasn’t even upset enough about this banner to contact the civil liberties union herself.
    The ACLU has their agenda and they will USE anyone who wants a minute of attention to further their trivial and pathetic crusade to abolish all traces of faith from the public eye in order to protect the overly sensitive and entitled American Public.

  25. There are lawyers who are going to volunteer their time to defend this so you can rest assured that your precious tax dollars won’t be used to defend a harmless prayer.
    America is a country of faith whether you believe in it or not. Welcome to America.

  26. Joe, there are lawyers lining up to donate their time to defend keeping the banner in place. You have no way of knowing if they will lose or not.
    America is made up of many people of different religious beliefs. You can put down religious faith, but it is a part of life here whether you believe in it or not. Welcome to America Joe.

  27. the other joe bernstein

    That rant was dumb, even for an atheist Jewish-raised non-Christian apologist.

    However, the First Amendment cannot be any more clear – take public tax dollars, no establishment of religion.

    Let’s wrap up the situation –
    The town is going to use non-Christian tax dollars to fight this in court.
    They are going to lose.
    This banner is coming down.
    Welcome to America.

  28. Well said Mr. Jones! Best post ever read on The Dose.
    Joe Berstein, this issue has nothing to do with my views on homosexuality. It is quite foolish for you to keep bringing it up.

  29. Though I am an atheist, I do not feel the banner should be removed. I feel like people in this day and age are way too sensitive and need to quit their complaining and grow up – even at 16, you should be mature enough to deal with something like this. The banner is something that has been in the school for many years and when it was put up, it was put up with good intentions. I understand that to put the same banner up in the year 2011 would not be acceptable but you need to take into consideration that it was put up during a different time in American history. Respect it and accept it.

    @THEOTHERJOEBERNSTEIN – If a Christian banner is so offensive and exclusive, why do they still permit religious holidays? Aren’t those exclusive? If you’re going to give one religion a holiday, shouldn’t you give EVERY religion a holiday? I’m exlcuded from things all the time – I grew up jewish and all I could do on Christmas was watch a movie and eat Chinese food – did I ever contact the ACLU? Nope, not once. If this girl is legitimately upset about the banner then she should cry every time she gets allowance from her Mommy and Daddy because it says “One nation under God” and oh no, she is excluded from that, I guess she will have to lead a life of poverty… and everytime she says the Pledge of Allegiance, I’m sure she dies a little on the inside. I’m actually not sure if they even still recite the pledge of allegiance in school anymore because it is probably too offensive for our precious children.

    The “coolest kids” at Cranston East are the 1000’s before her who saw the banner and said, hey, that’s not for me, but I respect it – live and let live.

    This girl should go volunteer and work with some homeless people or children with disabilities so she can learn what a real problem in society is instead of fabricating a problem because life is just too easy and she needs to create a problem to get any excitement orenjoyment in her life…

  30. The Other Joe Berstein

    This banner sends a message to all non-Christian students at that school that their religion is not equal. If every religion is allowed to hang their prayer banner right next to this one, I am all for leaving this one right where it is. If not, take it down because it’s a clear violation of the First Amendment, which applies to ALL religions (even Rob’s definitely not gay God).

  31. This banner is hurting NOBODY by staying right where it is. Does this young lady really believe that the whole world must change to suit her sensibilities? Do her parents and the ACLU really believe that children should be taught that the world must bend to their whims?
    Bishops Tobins comments here were taken out of context. A full reading of the quoted article would show her also supports leaving the banner in place.
    As for the comment that Christians want to pray in school but won’t go to Church on Sunday, maybe you should spend a Sunday at a local Church. The one I go to is always crowded and well-attended.

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