Evil Little Thing

I’ve been meaning to post about Jessica Ahlquist for a while now, but I keep feeling like there’s nothing I can say that hasn’t been said better by someone else already. Still, even if that’s true I haven’t said it yet, and besides this one really pisses me off.

First a brief recap. Several months ago, a high school student named Jessica Ahlquist at Cranston West High School in Rhode Island told the school administration that a big prayer banner hanging in the school was in violation of the Constitution. The administration decided to do nothing, the ACLU got involved, and last week a judge ordered the school to remove it. Since then young Ahlquist has been harassed and threatened to a shocking degree, because she asked her school to comply with the law.

For more details follow the links in that link above.

Last Thursday R.I. State Rep Peter Palumbo was on a radio show where he said that Jessica Ahlquist was “being coerced by evil people”. I’m still trying to work out how evil got into this. 

Look, I suppose it’s possible that she told her parents about this banner and they told her to go complain, but it really doesn’t seem at all unlikely that she simply paid attention in civics class and realized that the banner was an establishment clause violation. I mean some students actually do pay attention and learn something about the subject.

But the “evil” part really puzzles me. There are very few things that really deserve that word, though it makes for great hyperbole. This doesn’t even rate hyperbole though, all she did was point out that thing shouldn’t be hanging in a public school. Honestly I can’t understand why the school fought it, it’s an obvious violation and so little lost to comply with the law.

Rep Palumbo talks about her being a pawn as though there’s a some sort of conspiracy here. Shadowy figures working being the scenes to, um, enforce the law. And what really pisses me off about this is the Representative speaking ostensibly represents this kid’s interests. That’s his job. Apparently he thinks people’s interests are best served by…. I don’t know what he thinks, honestly. It just sounds nuts to me, I can’t even come up with a witty example.

Look, this wasn’t an unexpected outcome. It’s an obvious verdict based on lots of precedent that based on the constitution and the compulsory nature of education, religion has no place in public schools. It doesn’t matter if the words are vague enough to fit any monotheistic religion. It doesn’t matter how popular it is. It doesn’t matter whether anyone’s offended by the presence or absence of religious language or symbols. The government, and therefore the public schools, as agents of the government, must remain religiously neutral to conform to the Constitution.

I’d expect a state representative to understand that. I’d expect anyone who actually thought about it realistically to recognize that this protects them from unwanted religious influence in the government and in the schools. Palumbo talks about this thing as “non-denominational”, says that even Muslims could use it. This strikes me as pretty sound evidence that Palumbo is a moron. Even if we were to pretend that all the religions in the world were Christian, Muslim, or Jewish, or otherwise having a single patriarchal god so that “Heavenly Father” is appropriate, that’s not the point.

This shouldn’t be too hard to understand, do you really want to have to push your preferred form of religious instruction through a school board committee? Think of the schisms that have happened in every church, often over tiny details, and imagine that being argued by the people who need to agree on things in order to get a budget passed. The system would grind to a halt as soon as people started seeing the wrong religious influences and started working to change them.

The simple answer, the fair answer, and the cheapest answer is to just not have it there. If you want your kids to receive religious instruction, there are a great many churches and temples and mosques and institutes who will be happy to provide it, often at no charge. And you can find the one that matches your own religion in as close to your interpretation as possible. Hell, if that still fails, teach them yourself. You don’t spend enough time together anyways.

The point of the lawsuit wasn’t that Jessica Ahlquist saw a prayer and it hurt her feelings, the point was that the school was breaking the law. It wasn’t merely ignoring her rights, but the rights of every single student that attended during the time that banner was hanging there. Who it did or did not bother is irrelevant, even if it never bothered anyone it’s still not appropriate for a public school.

Palumbo wants the school to throw good money after bad by appealing the decision. Why? The law’s not going to change, the constitution’s not going to change, the school’s still going to be in the wrong. If it being there is no big deal, a minor thing not worth worrying about even if it is technically breaking the law, then why is it worth fighting so hard and spending so much money (taxpayer dollars!) to keep?

Anyways, after saying that the banner was non-denominational, good for Christians, Jews, and even Muslims, he goes on to talk about Jesus.

This post got away from me, it’s about three times as long as I’d planned, wanders all over the place, and I really can’t see a good way to finish it. So I’m just going to trail off here and hope I can find something less annoying for tomorrow.

About Leo Tarvi

Mostly fictional.

Posted on January 16, 2012, in Daily Post and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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