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Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years 

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Old 01-27-2012, 03:25 PM
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Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

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CRANSTON, R.I. — She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion.

In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group. The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.

“I was amazed,” said Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the foundation, which is based in Wisconsin and has given Jessica $13,000 from support and scholarship funds. “We haven’t seen a case like this in a long time, with this level of revilement and ostracism and stigmatizing.”

Written by seventh grader

The prayer, eight feet tall, is papered onto the wall in the Cranston West auditorium, near the stage. It has hung there since 1963, when a seventh grader wrote it as a sort of moral guide and that year’s graduating class presented it as a gift. It was a year after a landmark Supreme Court ruling barring organized prayer in public schools.

“Our Heavenly Father,” the prayer begins, “grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful.” It goes on for a few more lines before concluding with “Amen.”

For Jessica, who was baptized in the Catholic Church but said she stopped believing in God at age 10, the prayer was an affront. “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here,’ ” she said the other night during an interview at a Starbucks here.

Since the ruling, the prayer has been covered with a tarp. The school board has indicated it will announce a decision on an appeal next month.

A friend brought the prayer to Jessica’s attention in 2010, when she was a high school freshman. She said nothing at first, but before long someone else — a parent who remained anonymous — filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union.

That led the Cranston school board to hold hearings on whether to remove the prayer, and Jessica spoke at all of them. She also started a Facebook page calling for the prayer’s removal (it now has almost 4,000 members) and began researching Roger Williams, who founded Rhode Island as a haven for religious freedom.

'Religious revival'

Last March, at a rancorous meeting that Judge Ronald R. Lagueux of United States District Court in Providence described in his ruling as resembling “a religious revival,” the school board voted 4-3 to keep the prayer. Some members said it was an important piece of the school’s history; others said it reflected secular values they held dear.

The Rhode Island chapter of the A.C.L.U. then asked Jessica if she would serve as a plaintiff in a lawsuit; it was filed the next month.

New England is not the sort of place where battles over the division of church and state tend to crop up. It is the least religious region of the country, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. But Rhode Island is an exception: it is the nation’s most Catholic state, and dust-ups over religion are not infrequent.

Just last month, several hundred people protested at the Statehouse after Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, lighted what he called a “holiday tree.”

In Cranston, the police said they would investigate some of the threatening comments posted on Twitter against Jessica, some of which came from students at the high school. Pat McAssey, a senior who is president of the student council, said the threats were “completely inexcusable” but added that Jessica had upset some of her classmates by mocking religion online.

“Their frustration kind of came from that,” he said.
Many alumni this week said they did not remember the prayer from their high school days but felt an attachment to it nonetheless.

“I am more of a constitutionalist but find myself strangely on the other side of this,” said Donald Fox, a 1985 graduate of Cranston West. “The prayer banner espouses nothing more than those values which we all hope for our children, no matter what school they attend or which religious background they hail from.”

'Strong'

Brittany Lanni, who graduated from Cranston West in 2009, said that no one had ever been forced to recite the prayer and called Jessica “an idiot.”

“If you don’t believe in that,” she said, “take all the money out of your pocket, because every dollar bill says, ‘In God We Trust.’”

Raymond Santilli, whose family owns one of the flower shops that refused to deliver to Jessica, said he declined for safety reasons, knowing the controversy around the case. People from around the world have called to support or attack his decision, which he said he stood by. But of Jessica, he said, “I’ve got a daughter, and I hope my daughter is as strong as she is, O.K.?”

Jessica said she had stopped believing in God when she was in elementary school and her mother fell ill for a time.

“I had always been told that if you pray, God will always be there when you need him,” she said. “And it didn’t happen for me, and I doubted it had happened for anybody else. So yeah, I think that was just like the last step, and after that I just really didn’t believe any of it.”

Does she empathize in any way with members of her community who want the prayer to stay?

“I’ve never been asked this before,” she said. A pause, and then: “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.”

Jen McCaffery contributed reporting.

This article, headlined "Student Faces Town’s Wrath in Protest Against a Prayer," first appeared in The New York Times.
Source : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/46160046...n#.TyL5BsU9Uq8

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Old 01-27-2012, 03:31 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

You can have a separation of Church and State, or you can go to a religious school...you can't have both.

I'm no atheist, but I say "Well Done."

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Old 01-27-2012, 05:04 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

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Originally Posted by Brainplague View Post
You can have a separation of Church and State, or you can go to a religious school...you can't have both.

I'm no atheist, but I say "Well Done."
Can you show me where in the constitution is the section about seperation of church and state? Give me a quote?

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Old 01-27-2012, 05:18 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

No. I can't. This is all I have.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separat...urch_and_state

"In the United States, the term is an offshoot of the phrase, "wall of separation between church and state," as written in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The original text reads: "... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." Jefferson reflected his frequent speaking theme that the government is not to interfere with religion.[7] The phrase was quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947."

Like it or not, it's currently the law of the land. I happen to agree with it.

I don't want to get into a huge flame war. If you don't like my opinions, please put me on your ignore list and move on.

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Old 01-27-2012, 05:26 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

Don't know what the fuss is, it's a shit prayer anyway.

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Old 01-27-2012, 06:24 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

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Originally Posted by Brainplague View Post
No. I can't. This is all I have.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separat...urch_and_state

"In the United States, the term is an offshoot of the phrase, "wall of separation between church and state," as written in Thomas Jefferson's letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802. The original text reads: "... I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State." Jefferson reflected his frequent speaking theme that the government is not to interfere with religion.[7] The phrase was quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947."

Like it or not, it's currently the law of the land. I happen to agree with it.

I don't want to get into a huge flame war. If you don't like my opinions, please put me on your ignore list and move on.
Actually I already know all this. There is no such thing. It's not the law of the land. It's a perversion of the actual law. Or rather an inversion of the original law. Posting a prayer is not the state making a law to establish a religion. And pretending there is a valid law that outlaws students from posting a prayer on school grounds is actually illegally prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Prohibiting that free exercise of religion is actually wrong. I think all the students who disagree with the prohibition should begin to wear the prayer everywhere at the school until the little bitch has to close her eyes to keep from being offended.
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If you don't like my opinions, please put me on your ignore list and move on.
Same back at you. However in my case I enjoy watching and reading the legal foolishness of the atheistic goofballs.

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Old 01-27-2012, 06:44 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

Atheist goofball here. Seminary did it to me!

As long as they let all religions post prayers I'm cool with that.

May you all be touched by his noodly appendage.

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Old 01-27-2012, 07:06 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

good on her, but i agree as long as everyone is represented then who cares. She coulda wrote something that included atheism on the wall.

whatever though. who really cares about paint on the wall.

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Old 01-27-2012, 07:50 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

It wasn't hurting anybody. If she is so against anything that has God on it, she is more than welcome to fork all her money over to me as well.

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Old 01-27-2012, 07:59 PM
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Re: Atheist Teen Forces School to Remove Prayer from Wall After 49 Years

Kudos to her.

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