by Acharya S C
28 January 2012
Bring back the witch burnings!
brouhaha involving Rhode Island high school student
Ahlquist, 16, who requested her school remove a
prayer banner invoking "Our Heavenly Father," serves to illustrate
how the ideals of the American Founders have been trampled and
corrupted by religious fanatics in this country:
Ahlquist made a simple request to preserve what is called the
"separation of Church and State," based on the "Establishment
Clause" of the American Constitution.
For her efforts, she's been
attacked with all kinds of insults, hate speech and threats of
violence, including death, with a Rhode Island state representative
suggesting she's an "evil little thing."
However, it is Ahlquist's Constitutional right to attend a secular
public school. If others wish to attend religious schools, there are
plenty of those in this country. Our public schools must be kept
secular, teaching religion only from a dispassionate and uninvolved
Otherwise, religion must be barred from
No proselytizing, no school prayers - nada.
This Constitutional "wall of separation"
was further solidified by a woman named
Vashti McCollum, who sued
her local school board over religious indoctrination and won, in a
Supreme Court ruling in 1948:
Vashti McCollum, a self-described humanist from Champaign,
Ill., challenges the practice of allowing students in public schools
to attend voluntary religious instruction during school hours, on
When her son and other students chose not to attend
the classes, they are left to study alone in an empty room.
McCollum sues the local school board;
her family is subjected to harassment and hate mail; the family cat
is lynched. The case reaches the Supreme Court, which rules 8-1 in
favor of McCollum, saying the practice of holding religious classes
on tax-supported property violates the Establishment Clause.
As Charles Shaynes
points out, Ahlquist's request is in line
not only with the American Constitution but also with the wishes of
the founder of the State of Rhode Island, Rev.
(c. 1603-1683), himself a theologian and "deeply religious Christian
Rhode Island founder
theologian Roger Williams
Jessica may be in the minority in
Cranston, but she's in good company as the latest in a long line
of Rhode Island dissenters - beginning with the state's founder,
Williams, who was himself verbally attacked, was banished from
Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1635 for objecting to the
entanglement of religion and government that, he believed,
He founded Rhode Island as the first government in history with
no established religion and a commitment to protect liberty of
conscience for every person. As a deeply religious Christian
minister, Williams vowed to put an end to centuries of
oppression and coercion by erecting what he called "a wall or
hedge of separation" between the "Garden of the Church and the
Wilderness of the World."
Rhode Island was to be a "haven for the cause of conscience"
where government stayed out of religion and all people
(including Quakers, Catholics and others persecuted in
surrounding colonies) would be free to choose in matters of
If he were alive today, there's little doubt that Roger Williams
would be solidly in Jessica's corner. He would view the "school
prayer" banner as blasphemous state appropriation of religion.
However big or small the issue,
Williams believed that any state entanglement with religion
violates conscience, divides society, and (most important for
him) offends God...
"Jessica Ahlquist is clearly an
articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave
stand, particularly in light of the hostile response she has
received from her community."
Fortunately, the federal judge in this
case - who made the above quote about Ahlquist - saw fit to uphold
the Constitution and
ruled in her favor.
Naturally, the hate speech
and death threats have continued to fly.
In the final analysis, the hate speech, death threats and irrational
religious fanaticism displayed in Rhode Island could be deemed
"un-American" and "anti-American," as well as illegal and/or
Jessica Ahlquist is the true American in
this situation, following the ideals of the American and Rhode
Island Founding Fathers.
Moreover, I personally find the idea of a "Heavenly Father" to the
exclusion of all other divine concepts, including the "Heavenly
Mother" or, perhaps more appropriately, the "Earthly Mother," to be
offensive to my religion.
It is a sexist and human-derogating
notion that I reject - so, these spewers of hate speech and death
threats are offending my religion: