You’re not a hero

Jessica Ahlquist is a sophomore at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island, where a Christian prayer has been hanging in the gymnasium since the 1960s.  Though she did not file the initial complaint, Jessica certainly doesn’t care for it and her objections have caused quite a stir.  Last night the school committee voted 4-3 to keep the banner up and to face a forthcoming lawsuit.

Said one religious supporter who elected to speak at the meeting:

“I say we fight the good fight,” said Peter Paolella, a Cranston High School West graduate whose children attend the city’s public schools. He urged the School Committee to keep a prayer at Cranston West, even if that meant going to court. “America needs a hero. Let’s be the hero.”

What a crock of shit.  What the school board is doing is illegal, no question.  They are not standing on principle unless that principle is insisting that they are above the law, which is a terrible example to set for the students in their charge.  Responsible adult citizens who disagree with our laws should work through the system to change them legally instead of violating them. If everyone got to pick and choose which laws to disregard we would be well on the road to anarchy.

Not only has the committee conveyed that ‘lesson’, they seem to be sharply implying that students cannot pray unless commanded to do so.  I would think the religious denizens of Cranston would be livid about that position, but none of them seem to be.

Only someone deeply intoxicated by faith could consider the four pious masochists on the school committee to be heroes.  They are about to take a very large portion of the taxpayers’ money that was supposed to go toward providing a decent education to these students and they are going to piss it away on what will be a slam dunk case in favor of Ms. Ahlquist.  That’s not heroic, it’s selfish, and it shows a disregard for the students whose quality of schooling will suffer on account of the committee’s decision.  Sure, the martyr-happy faithful will blame Jessica when the school district starts hemorrhaging cash because she didn’t bend over and kowtow to the majority, and in doing so prevented them from breaking the law in a fashion that would marginalize the atheists.  Well, frankly, fuck those people.  The blame rightly resides on the shoulders of the four committee members who voted to stand on faith rather than upon their commitment to their community, to the law, and to their students.

There is not enough shame on Earth to heap on such irresponsible people.  The hero is the student willing to endure what is bound to be an enormous harassment campaign in order to tell a bunch of people who think god has given them special privilege that, quite to the contrary, we’re fucking equal.  That’s real courage.

Personally, I don’t believe they’re all equal.  I think Jessica has more moxy and more integrity than the lot of them.

  • Gaelynn Dooley

    For those of you who don't know, I acknowledge and support the separation of church and state. I refused to say the pledge in school, wore upside down crosses to school and am very out as an atheist.

    "What the school board is doing is illegal, no question. They are not standing on principle unless that principle is insisting that they are above the law, which is a terrible example to set for the students in their charge. Responsible adult citizens who disagree with our laws should work through the system to change them legally instead of violating them. If everyone got to pick and choose which laws to disregard we would be well on the road to anarchy."

    I will however point out that non-violent civil disobedience depends on the very tactic that they are using. Therefor, attack their ideas, attack their principles and rationale, attack their inability to pick more important battles…but I am pretty sure that you and many progressive people would be willing to use the same tactic of breaking a law thought of as unjust.

  • Jackie M

    Gaelynn, your enthusiasm is nice and all, but you realize the upside down cross is the sign of St. Peter, right?

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  • Keith Pinster

    Gaelynn, you are partially right, but the place for that fight is NOT in our public school system. If they want to fight, they should be using their OWN money, not the school systems. As TJ says, "it’s selfish, and it shows a disregard for the students whose quality of schooling will suffer on account of the committee’s decision." And that is the difference. Xians are more than happy to have someone ELSE foot the bill when trying to shove their religion down other people's throats. It is SO sad that you, and I'm sure many others, can't see the difference.

  • Imaatheist

    I don't agree with what they are doing, I believe in separation of church and state. But they are violating laws they feel are wrong, which is civil disobedience. Civil disobidiance was the main way the civil rights movement gained momentum, and "picking and choosing what laws you follow" has actually had a positive effect on our justice system today.

  • http://slrman.wordpress.com James Smith Jo&atild

    As always, they religious reich believes that they are above everything. The law, common sense, and simple human decency mean nothing to them. Is it any wander that they are held in contempt by rational thinkers?

    I hope they not only lose this lawsuit but that the board members are held personally liable for the expense they have st stupidly incurred. It's much easier to be self-righteous when it isn't your personal wallet that will suffer.

    • Stephen K.

      Simple human decency would be giving the school a pass on a banner that’s been there for 50 years. Illegal as it may be, to the non-believer it’s a folly, so why insist that it must come down? You crave understanding and give none.

      And then let’s all feign surprise when the community is upset. Is it any wonder that a vast majority, who consider themselves the only voices of reason on the planet, are held in such universal contempt?

      • Stephen K.

        *minority

        • Adam

          You can’t use the rationalization that because they have been breaking the law for 50 years, it’s ok to keep breaking it. The banner should have never been put up, or at least should have been taken down a long time ago.

  • Larry Meredith

    I was just about to post the same thing Gaelynn.

    Standing up for the law and following it even if you disagree is often an argument point from people who agree with that law. When you find the law unjust though, and especially when you find it unjust because of irrationality that won't change, you will usually decide to break that law as long as it doesn't hurt anybody.

    The first thing that comes to my mind as an example is Dr. Kevorkian and assisted suicide. He felt that choosing to end your life is a civil right, and it was being taken away by irrational religious people. He actively disobeyed that law and created a lot of controversy because he felt that was the best way to challenge that law.

    However, the only person Kevorkian ever harmed was the person who wanted that harm, someone who wanted to die in peace and with dignity. What these school board members did is not just actively defying a law they find unjust, they are doing it at the expense of children's education. I'm okay with civil disobedience and breaking a law as long as you truely find it morally unjustified and irrational, but only if it doesn't harm anyone. The school board committee is tasked with doing what's in the best interest of the children and their education. Instead what they're doing is looking out for their own best interests and the interest of pushing their religious faith at the cost of taxpayers and public school funding.

    Please though, don't use the argument that we should all obey the law even if we find it morally reprehensible. "We can't pick and choose what laws we want to follow, otherwise there'd be chaos." It's a straw man argument and you wouldn't appreciate it when the shoe is on the other foot. So don't use it just because it fits you in a given situation.

  • jim

    Curious Question for you: You stated laws need tobe followed to set a good example for opur children, do you have the same stand against illegal (undocumented) aliens living in our country….hmmm..I bet you don’t….but i could be wrong because I’m sure you believe in what you say above following and supporting the laws against illegal immigration otherwise you would be a hypocrite..

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