One question too many

The New York Times reports on the bullying of Jessica Ahlquist…sort of.

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.

Yes but…the Times sees the other side.

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.”

But it addresses “our heavenly father” in the process, and we don’t “all” hope for that for children no matter “which religious background they hail from.” The school could have removed our daddy in the sky and kept the values, but the school refused to do that.

At the very end the Times slips in the knife.

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

You know…they could have just left that out. Many “members of her community” are telling her she should be dead and calling her things like “worthless cunt”…The Times could have just skipped the part where it shifts some blame to her. It could have and probably would have if this had been a racial issue…but it’s about religion, and we just can’t treat that the way we treat other subjects. It would be impious.


  1. says

    “If she hadn’t have been dressed that way, they never would have threatened her…”

    That’s really what it’s like. It’s like asking a woman who’s been threatened by men on the street if she can understand why they have a problem with the clothes she wears.

    And honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Times would do that too.

  2. anteprepro says

    Who cares if she is right and is being given death threats? Did she think about other people’s feelings when she was doing the right thing? Truly, she is a monster for making her government-funded school obey the Constitution and not caring about how many True Christians would weep due to being forced to not use government institutions as a vehicle to impose their faith on all students. Also, she mocked religion online, so one should ignore the law and the death threats and just accept that Jessica Ahlquist is pure evil.

    I truly don’t understand how the side supporting religion and conservative political views is able to be so profoundly illogical and stupid, yet still get a free pass from moderates and even some liberals. It is fucking baffling.

  3. Irene Delse says

    Wow. Don’t miss the answer from Jessica Ahlquist:

    “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.”

    Perfect. And it makes the NYT reporter look pretty silly in comparison. I’ve got more and more respect for Jessica.

  4. anthrosciguy says

    Funny thing, the NYT couldn’t seem to find a single example of Jessica mocking religion to support their claim that she did. I see threats against her were easy enough to find — in fact you could be half blind and stumble over them there were so many — but not one thing going the other way.

  5. Steersman says

    … 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.

    “God”, I love it! “Mocking!” Why, the very idea! Seems religion can also make for some very strange bedfellows.

    But seems the NY Times is a little unclear on the concept of separation of church and state – give the buggers an inch and they’ll take your whole damn country. As seems to be the case with another recent Op-Ed there on the topic of Islamophobia. While one might justifiably question whether the film described was some hysterical Israeli propaganda it really does seem remarkably obtuse if not willfully blind to the fact that Islam is dedicated to the concept of Sharia law which is intrinsically antithetical and inimical to human rights and democracy. As Ibn Warraq put it in his Why I Am Not a Muslim:

    In an important article, “Islam and Liberal Democracy”, Bernard Lewis explains very well why liberal democracy never developed in Islam. Like many scholars of Islam, Lewis deplores the use of the term “Islamic Fundamentalist” as being inappropriate. I agree. I have already pointed out that, unlike Protestants, who have moved away from the literal interpretation of the Bible, Muslims – all Muslims – still take the Koran literally. Hence, in my view, there is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. Islam is deeply embedded in every Muslim society, and “fundamentalism” is simply the excess of this culture. ….

    The truth of the matter is that Islam will never achieve democracy and human rights if it insists on the application of the sharia and as long as there is no separation of church and state. But as Muir puts it: “A reformed faith that should question the divine authority on which they [the institutions of Islam] rest, or attempt by rationalistic selection or abatement to effect a change, would be Islam no longer.” [pgs 185, 187]

  6. machintelligence says

    B-b-b-but — she is an atheist, which means she says that they are wrong about the existence of god (if not in so many words). How is that not mocking? /sarcasm>

  7. christophburschka says

    It’s a good thing they asked that question. It was the perfect set-up for an awesome response, which showed that Jessica definitely does empathize with those who hate her even though she knows they are wrong (quoted in #6). Too many have attempted to portray her as someone with a personal grudge, who cares only about her own rights. This answer showed again she is not fighting these people; she is fighting for a right that benefits everyone, including them.

    I wouldn’t vilify a reporter for asking tough questions, even questions that implicitly endorse your opponents. They’re not doing it out of their own views, but to give you the opportunity to respond to it. Jessica knocked that ball out of the park. If the interviewer intended that, they did their job well; if not, it backfired beautifully.

  8. Pteryxx says

    “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.”

    …Jessica for President.

  9. LeftSidePositive says

    HOW exactly has she mocked religion online? She has posted Facebook pages of arguments she’s had with believers, and all I’ve read there are reasoned, calm critiques of religion, and, like, why evolution is valid science. If that’s “mocking,” then these cretins are basically saying that any criticism of their beliefs is unfair and deserves to be met with threats of violence.

    Also: mocking an idea =/= harassing a PERSON. Why is this so hard to understand?!

    Moreover, why should she be EXPECTED to have empathy for the people who want to break the law to treat her as a second-class citizen?

  10. starskeptic says

    I don’t understand the problem with that last question; kudos to the reporter for asking a novel question – even more to Jessica for showing how adults are supposed to act…

  11. duck1887 says

    That is a good answer, but I was also thinking of “Well, it’s hard to empathize with people who call me a worthless cunt.” This would be especially effective on live TV or radio – anyone who attacks her for her filthy mouth is ipso facto admitting that what her attackers call her is too vile even to be said on TV/radio.

    Or is that too subtle?

  12. christophburschka says

    “Well, it’s hard to empathize with people who call me a worthless cunt.”

    That’d have been a devastating answer too, but the one she gave humiliated her attackers more than any rightful condemnation. She didn’t just take the high ground, she planted a flag in it and founded a constitutional commonwealth.

    Echoing #11:

    …Jessica for President.

  13. nemothederv says

    I think I’ll put up a “Blessed be Allah” sign at my local post office and stage a moral panic when they try to take it down.

  14. Greisha says

    Let’s better chip in to Jessica’s scholarship fund (I did) instead of blaming NYT for something they did not say. I read the full article and it did not have any special, either to commend nor condemn.

  15. says

    It’s a shitty question, but it does demonstrate a critically important aspect of any persuasive attempt (and Jessica is certainly involved in a gargantuan persuasive effort right now): you must demonstrate that you understand where your opponents are coming from, even though you disagree. That is a sine qua non of pretty much any campaign (there are some extreme exceptions).

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