14 January 2012

The Trails of Jessica Ahlquist

Recently a 16 year old girl from Rhode Island, by the name of Jessica Ahlquist, challenged and won her case against her school Cranston High School West. Apparently they had a banner on public display with a prayer addressed to the Christian God on it with the title "School Prayer". Now a prayer to the God of the Christians is not in and of itself a problem, neither is the fact that it had the title "School Prayer". The issue here was that this is in a public school, the law of the land (US of A) requires separation of church and state and the banner was in violation of this underlying principle by being on public display.

Perhaps this doesn't seem like a big deal, but consider that there were no other prayers to the Gods of other religions on display. This immediately creates an environment of exclusion in the school, children who aren't Christian will either feel ostracized or forced to conform to a religious culture they don't share. In fact, even they included a prayer from every religion in the school (which would probably be impractical to say the least) they would still be excluding those who don't practice any religion at all.

(Hypothetically, a prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster might suffice for atheists but then:
a) There's still the issue of practicality and
b) what'd be the point?)

The only real solution would be to have no school banners displaying any prayers from any religion. People who have religious convictions can still have their prayers at school though there are probably valid reasons to restrict public displays of prayer at specific school locations. The point is not to force others who do not share your religious convictions (assuming they have some) to go along with you and your group.

However, I don't think that the idea of having more than one religion's prayer on display would fly well with the dominate religious group at any school (though circumstances can make strange bedfellows at times). Consider what Cranston parents and students have been saying since Jessica won her case.

So This is Christian Love?

So This is Christian Love?

If by "Christian Love" you mean hatred & contempt

If by "Christian Love" you mean hatred & contempt

There are probably many Christians right now, should they be reading this, that are saying to themselves, "But that's not how a real Christian would act." Aside from pointing out the No True Scotsman Fallacy, I'd also state that many of my Christian readers thinking this are possibly "Liberal Christians" whose brand of Christianity doesn't take as much of The Bible literally as a more Fundamental/Evangelical Christians. Fundamental/Evangelical Christians are likely to see Liberal Christians at not "Real Christians" either (The No True Scotsman Fallacy can cut both ways) and many of them might even see the above actions of the parents and students as justifiable in defense of their faith.

These parents and students are behaving badly, I don't care if they Christian, Islamic, or even if they're atheist. Such poor behaviour toward someone who did the right thing to defend civil liberties is deplorable. While these parents and students may have their supporters, I hope that most of the American population see that the removal of the banner was correct and support Jessica.

The point I'm trying to make here is that I have a great deal of admiration for Jessica. At fifsixteen years of age she is confident, obviously intelligent and motivated to do what she has reasoned to be the right thing to do. I have three little girls myself and whether they end up being theist or atheist I hope that they have the courage, strength and critical thinking skills as young Jessica had.

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