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Feb 01 2012

Just Who Is At Fault Here?

Do you know how much it cost
When I fought the law and lost?
When the judge reviewed and tossed out my opinion?
I’ll admit it gave me pause
When he said I broke the laws
Though I disagree, because it’s God’s dominion!

Though I lost my legal claim
I’ll hold Jessica to blame
She’s a child, but she’s fair game for the decision
She’s the reason that we must
Pay the lawyers or go bust
So that’s why her name’s discussed with such derision

Yes, the truth is, it’s our fault;
We’re the ones on the assault
We’d pay nothing, had we halted our transgression
But we had to roll the dice
So we get to pay the price
Maybe next time, we’ll think twice about oppression

Rant, following:

Words matter. Specific word choices make a world of difference. Headlines matter all the more, since a good many people read the headline but do not read the article, and those who do read the article usually do so only after having read the headline. (belaboring the obvious for fun and profit…)

So anyway, the headline at Yahoo News is Teen Atheist’s ACLU-Led Fight Against Prayer Mural to Cost RI City At Least $173,000. More accurately, it might have read “Cranston’s Unconstitutional Activities To Cost At Least $173,000.”

But, of course, it is all Jessica’s fault. She’s the one who is costing the city big bucks. Not their “sue us” hubris. Not their decades-long violation. (I have now seen, but can’t remember where, claims that a local rabbi had heard complaints about the banner over the decades, but of course none of these complaints ever made it to the legal system. If any of you have seen such reports, I’d love a link or two.) No, it couldn’t possibly be the fault of the good people of Cranston, simply pining away for the good old days when every one was Catholic, and the people who weren’t, didn’t matter. (for the record, it doesn’t depend on their catholicism–that’s just a trivial detail. It does, however, depend on their religious faith, and their associated sense of privilege.)

I hope (I do not know, but I have heard this–again, links would be appreciated) that the assholes are but a vocal minority. I have heard that Jessica has the support of many (most?) of her peers at school; I really hope that is the case. Not just for her, of course; I hope her classmates can see the big picture. I hope for their own sakes, that even her religious peers can see that Jessica’s fight is in their own best interest. They may be losing privilege, but they are gaining protection of rights. And in the long term, that is what matters.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Alethea Kuiper-Belt

    Proofreader alert! You mean “vocal minority” in that last para. Though I fear you are wrong here.

  2. 2
    Cuttlefish

    Corrected–thanks, Alethea!

    I fear I am as well, which is why I want confirmation. I did read it somewhere, but I am not the type to leave a trail of breadcrumbs and find my way back to the places I visit. I also tell my students to challenge most skeptically the claims they *want* to be true. So yeah, I want independent confirmation on this one.

  3. 3
    echidna

    More than happy to provide the link to Rabbi Levin’s quote from the Warwick Beacon. It’s the only place I have seen this reported, but it is the perfect counter to the claim that “nobody had a problem with the banner until now”.
    http://www.warwickonline.com/stories/Faith-leaders-urge-compassion-kindness-towards-Ahlquist,67156

    The quote is:

    Rabbi Amy Levin, vice president of the Rhode Island Board of Rabbis, said she has spoken with former Cranston West students who felt uncomfortable with the banner when it was put up in their school nearly 50 years ago. She said the families and individuals she talked with were afraid to make their stance known during an era of such religious fortitude.

    “Jessica, 50 years later, managed to give voice to their discomfort,” said Levin.

  4. 4
    Cuttlefish

    Thank you, Echidna! Yes, that is what I had read (although the source does not sound familiar–which is actually good news, if it means that the quote is more widely disseminated!).

  5. 5
    echidna

    Hopefully. I’m certainly one of the disseminators, and I’ve noticed some vigorous argument from you on this topic from time to time as well on various sites; always articulate and a joy to read. My default assumption, of course, that anyone using the handle cuttlefish is you.

  6. 6
    echidna

    Another quote that I think is important when people are claiming that Jessica deserves all the death threats for her “intolerant” anti-religious stance is by Catholic Bishop Tobin, from the Rhode Island Catholic. http://thericatholic.com/news/detail.html?sub_id=4685

    Bishop Thomas J. Tobin said then it is understandable that people respond “in a very intense and emotional way” when cultural icons, religious symbols or traditional moral values are challenged.

    “Nonetheless, resorting to personally insulting and even threatening language in such public controversies is totally unacceptable, especially when directed at a young person such as Jessica Ahlquist who has every right to promote her beliefs and express her opinion,” Bishop Tobin said in a statement.

  7. 7
    Cuttlefish

    Very likely, echidna (oops–first echidna; well, second, but first of the last two…). That handle and these topics, doubly likely; I have seen other cuttlefish, but I have not run into them in the wild.

    It’s funny–I do recognize some names across wildly disparate sites; there’s a “Doug Indeep” that shows up and writes beautifully, for instance, on establishment cases across the country. My assumption is that names I recognize are probably the same, and that writing I recognize may or may not be someone I know in another persona.

    I’ve been about 6 different fully realized personas over the years, but currently I’m pretty much Cuttlefish.

  8. 8
    Cuttlefish

    Second, or rather third, echidna–another nice quote, but I’d prefer the Bishop also recognize that at this point, it’s not just Jessica’s opinion, but the judge’s decision. This isn’t Jessica saying the school is in the wrong; the school, at this point, simply is in the wrong.

  9. 9
    echidna

    The one and only cuttlefish, I agree – the Bishop does not cover the ground that he should. I don’t think the Catholic priests have done anywhere near enough to calm their flocks, quite the opposite. At least the Bishop has voiced the idea that things are a bit out of hand, and some restoration of calm is in order. I take the view that the rabid Catholics in RI are less likely to argue against his words than mine.

  10. 10
    Cuttlefish

    A very pragmatic monotreme, you are.

  11. 11
    HP

    Trumped-up lawsuits are, of course, the norm,
    When your goal is constitutional reform.
    Plessy, Scott, Parks, Brown, to name few
    Engineered their lawsuits for the sake of me and you.

    Cranston Schools and others want to claim
    This mantle for their own and make their fame.
    They want rights for Them, and not for Others.
    Court costs are a bitch though, and they’ll wish they’d had their druthers.

  12. 12
    echidna

    A very pragmatic monotreme, you are.

    Jessica has to live there. The locals need to realise they are wrong, and be brought to heel [comply with the law without snapping and snarling], as it were. Delicate situation, really.

  1. 13
    Linksplat – 05/02/12 « Cubik's Rube

    [...] – Let’s all remember something important. It wasn’t Jessica Ahlquist who cost Cranston, Rhode Island $173,000 in court fees. It was her school’s refusal to stop breaking the law. [...]

  2. 14
    “Cranston’s Unconstitutional Activities To Cost At Least $173,000” | TRiG's links

    [...] knew they would lose? It would seem to me that the school district is at fault here, but apparently it’s all Jessica’s fault. It would make you [...]

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