[chant] Jess-i-CA! Jess-i-CA! Jess-i-CA! [/chant]

So there’s this thing called the Presidential Citizens Medal, and the White House is looking for nominees for this year “for exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.”

I can think of someone.

Plus she's presidentially adorable!


  1. cswella says

    Someone get the Rev. Barry Lynn’s number, I wonder if he would support her nomination?

  2. KingUber says

    I would but that survey requires giving out personal information which I never do over the internet

  3. Jerome says

    Just for clarity for others filling out the form who might be less familiar, here’s some background on why she is a gleaming light of inspiration and hope, and a fearless defender of the Constitution, including for those who are attacking her:
    * Ahlquist v. Cranston
    * Threats against RI atheist teen being investigated
    * State Rep. Palumbo calls a 16-year-old girl an “evil little thing”

    Quick reference:

    Nominee’s name: Jessica Ahlquist
    Nominee’s city: Cranston
    Nominee’s state: Rhode Island (RI)
    Nominee’s approximate age: 16 or 17
    Was this nominee’s service performed outside of his or her regular job? Hmmm… Yes? No? Probably doesn’t matter.

    The last two are left as an exercise for the voter.

  4. redpanda says

    Well what she did certainly fits the criteria, but I’m not sure that they’re looking for such a controversial character–especially with elections coming up. Would be neat (and interesting) if she won, though.

  5. redpanda says

    Hah! I suppose most Christians with dominionist tendencies aren’t going to vote for him anyway, so it might not matter if he alienates a few more.

  6. says

    The award requires that the service be performed outside of one’s job, that’s why there’s only a checkbox for ‘yes’.

  7. Dave says

    The issue isn’t the dominionists. The issue is the regular christians steeped in privilege. Like the ones in cranston. Which do compose a sizeable part of the democratic base. It’s an unfortuante part of american politics. You need the christian vote. And the less material that the GOP has in the “Obama hated Jesus!1!111” folder, the better.

    Taking a principled stand stops being a good idea when it actively harms the principle you are trying to protect.

    If it comes to Alquist not getting some recognition vs allowing religious fanatics with contempt for the constitution into the white house, one is clearly the lesser evil.

  8. Zengaze says

    Id think you’re right. The sad reality is that conformism and populism are the order of the day. It was Martin Luther king jnr who said: – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” I am of the opinion the Obama was the light on the hill that turned out to be a mirage.

    “O, yes, I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath –
    America will be!

  9. rowanvt says

    @ Bruce:

    The Democrats at least appear to accept that I am a human being who should have control over my own body and not be enslaved to my uterus?

  10. says

    Bruce: The main difference is that the Democrats are demonstrably slightly more likely to create liberal legislation, even if it’s frequently watered down and horribly compromised. Put it this way — the Left isn’t going to get what it wants on a lot of issues. However, over the long run, if we’re willing to take a few compromises now, we can build on them later; you really think PPACA should be the last word on health care reform? I don’t. It’s a first step, and we got it because of a Democratic congress. That’s why we have anything at all at this point.

  11. pyrobryan says

    I would vote for her if not for two things.

    1. Someone said you have to enter personal info to sign up to enter. Not interested, but I’ll check to see how personal it gets.
    2. No President who is seeking reelection is going to award a medal to an atheist activist for activism in atheism, no matter how “presidentially adorable” she is.

    Maybe I’m just being too cynical today…

  12. says

    Do it anyway. It’s not so much the likelihood of her actually winning the award, as it is a public demonstration of support for Jessica’s actions, directed right at the White House. Even if they don’t award her, they’ll know what she means to those of us who truly care about the Constitution and not just political coddling of religious privilege.

  13. says

    No, can’t agree. While I liked Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, the difference is that Jessica isn’t backing down in the face of death threats.

  14. says

    Done! I even wrote a little paragraph or two about why she deserves this award. I don’t object to my personal information being submitted to the White House. It was just my name, phone number, email address and city I live in. If they wanted to they can learn very easily all that and more, and learn that I’m an atheist, I heartily support equal rights for everyone, and could even know more about my sex life than anyone needs to.* 😀

  15. Zengaze says

    Yeah martins point nails it. Though I I’d Iike to pick at something you said. Jess in her challenge over the prayer flag wasn’t being an atheist activist, she was being a constitutional rights activist, an equal rights activist, a brave adolescent who saw something was wrong and was prepared to face the wrath of her peers in order to stand in defence of what’s right. If medals are going to be given out then that’s worthy of one.

  16. crowepps says

    They want to exclude heroic fireman and heroic policemen, etc., both because heroism is presumed to be a job qualification there and because there are already presidential and congressional awards and medals for job-related categories.

  17. crowepps says

    If you’re looking for a “light on the hill” I’d suggest you turn your eyes away from politicans. Their job *requires* compromise and the job of president in particular that the people with whom the occupant of the office disagrees also be represented.

  18. Savi says

    I still don’t get why the prayer banner is considered such a big deal by the atheist community. I understand that the constitution forbids any endorsement of a religious point of view by a publicly funded institution. But I don’t see why it should be a legal issue for a school to do that. So what if the school endorses Christianity? What is the school actually *doing* that hinders the students or faculty? What rules or policies are the students expected to follow (or activities in which they are expected to participate) that are religious in nature? What rights are being infringed upon by the banner? What can students do without the banner that they couldn’t do with it? What harm does the banner cause by its mere presence on the wall?

  19. says

    I don’t care what the constitution says, as I stated in my original post. Your response is an appeal to authority. I want to know what your personal objection to the banner is, not what the constitution says about it.

  20. says

    We have separation of church and state in this country, and what you’re really asking, above and beyond the banner, is why our country should have this on general principles. Asking “so what” if a government-run school endorses Christianity is really no different than asking “so what” if the government endorses Christianity. So let’s address that. The reason for it is that our founders understood, having come from societies that promoted the whole “divine right of kings” concept, that politics + religion is a recipe for corruption and oppression. And they were right. When a government tells its citizens that there is one belief system they endorse at the expense of all others, it immediately places those citizens who practice other religions, or none at all, in a de facto “second class citizen” position, without even having to do so explicitly. It places those who do practice the endorsed religion in a position of privilege in that society, and from there it’s just a small step to oppressing society’s outliers. America was founded on principles of human rights and equality, although it’s taken centuries to get that right and we still aren’t all the way there yet. But prohibiting government endorsement of religion was a correct first step.

    When you ask “What can students do without the banner that they couldn’t do with it?”, what you should be asking is “What can students do with the banner that they couldn’t do without it?” The banner served no purpose in supplementing the educational mission of the school, and its only effect was to privilege Christian students over non-Christian ones. And if you’re really so dumb and naive enough to sincerely ask “What harm does the banner cause by its mere presence on the wall?”, you only need to look at reactions to its removal. Jessica and her family have repeatedly been threatened with rape, torture and murder, and even a state senator publicly referred to her as “evil.” All of which proves, as conclusively as anything can be proved, that the presence of the banner had the demonstrably harmful effect of turning those who endorsed its message, not into the kind-hearted and loving children of God the banner rhapsodizes about, but into a clique of entitled, angry, bigoted, and morally bankrupt monsters stripped of even the most basic level of human empathy, indoctrinated into thinking of themselves as superior and more deserving than anyone not in their God-clique. Which has been atheists’ criticism of religion all along. Belief doesn’t make for a “kinder, gentler” person, it creates the exact opposite. And this fact has now been graphically exposed. They don’t realize it, but Jessica has done them done them all the best favor of their lives.

    So is it all clear to you now?

  21. says

    I disagree with you on the point that the banner somehow turned people into a bunch of assholes. I think they were already assholes.

    I agree that the banner shouldn’t have been put up in the first place since it “served no purpose in supplementing the educational mission of the school,” and because it’s exclusive and ironically hypocritical. However, I don’t think it’s a big enough issue to make a big fuss to take it down.

    Even if the president himself publicly endorsed a specific religious view, and this view was plastered all over every government building at the federal, state, and local levels, I wouldn’t think it’s a big enough deal to make a fuss over it unless the government is actually passing laws or enacting policies (or forcing us to participate in certain activities) that are religious in nature. That’s what we should be concerned about; not mere symbolism or verbal/written endorsements, but actual laws, rules, policies, and actions with substantially harmful effects. I don’t care what the government says. I’m much more concerned about what they do.

    You said that a government endorsement of a particular religious view makes those who don’t subscribe to it second class citizens and places those who do subscribe to it in a privileged position. I disagree for the reasons I stated above. A verbal/written endorsement of a point of view and a substantial action that has real consequences are two very different things. How could one group suddenly become privileged because of things our government officials say? Only actions, such as the enforcement of certain laws and policies, can do that.

    Many atheists would argue that those actions would inevitably follow the verbal or written endorsement. But I would tell them to postpone their rebellion until the government actually takes action against atheists, rather than getting on the government’s case for something they might do in the future. Until Cranston West actually does something to hinder its students or faculty (something with a substantial effect, not just a mere verbal or written endorsement of a religious point of view), I see no reason to crucify them.

  22. says

    Fair point that the people threatening Jessica were already assholes. More accurate to have said that the harm caused by the presence of the banner was to make them feel safe and entitled in their assholery, to the extent that they found it perfectly acceptable to react as abominably as they did when it was removed, all the while thinking they were on the moral high ground. Banners like these aren’t the cause of privilege, but the validation that comes later.

    When flagrant violations of the Constitution occur, unfortunately a “big fuss” often has to happen to make sure those don’t occur, just like a big fuss had to be made over civil rights half a century ago, and suffrage half a century before that, and so on. Jessica’s lawsuit was a necessary thing. The real big fuss came from the theocrats who lashed out in opposition.

    A verbal/written endorsement of a point of view and a substantial action that has real consequences are two very different things. How could one group suddenly become privileged because of things our government officials say? Only actions, such as the enforcement of certain laws and policies, can do that.

    You’re making the mistake of thinking that only governments act. When a government tells a certain class of people they’re better than everyone else, yes indeedy, actions are inspired by such endorsements and privilege. Racists in America 50 years ago didn’t need the “enforcement of certain laws and policies” to feel it was a-okay to lynch black kids. While it’s obviously a slippery slope to suggest that such extreme examples would happen in all cases (and therefore I’m not suggesting that), the point is that people will take it upon themselves to act out their privilege and entitlement once it’s instilled. I’m personally not willing to twiddle my thumbs and remain silent and “postpone rebellion” in the face of religious hate until the government decides it wants to do a repressive thing, thank you very much. One lunatic with a gun in one hand and a Bible in another are scary enough for me. And I find it’s easier to spot those types when my head’s out of the sand rather than in it.

  23. George From NY says

    And I can’t agree that getting a few threat letters from some creepy scumbags is comparable to having al-Qaeda publicly declare that they are gunning for you.

    Molly Norris changed her name and went into hiding after the FBI’s own security experts advised her that the threats on her life were real and credible.


    Jessica Ahlquist has not faced anything like that. Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali? Yes. Jessica Ahlquist? No. Not even close.

    But she’s one great kid; no doubt about that.

  24. Dave Ricks says

    Me too. Deadline is April 24. All fields are required, so we need to write something in the box for why she should receive the medal, and write something in the box for the impact her service had.

  25. Dave Ricks says

    The personal information required was my name, phone number, city and state (which is my listing in a phone book, but without my street address) plus an email address. I can’t imagine anyone really objecting to that.

  26. Zengaze says

    “I don’t care what the constitution says” are you serious? You don’t care what’s legal or illegal? Maybe we should just let people make laws up as they go along, dependant upon the situational context, and the individuals involved.

    What you actually mean is you don’t care what the constitution says when you don’t like the implications of its enforcement. I have an idea, since you don’t care about constitutional legality lets lock up all the morons like you and throw away the key.

  27. Metaphysical Ham Sandwich says

    Posting this here because there’s no open thread for yesterday’s show yet, but the sun god guy was quoting George Carlin verbatim.

  28. says

    Ripple effects:

    Publicizing the issue and raising people’s awareness and knowledge of it; securing an impeccably worded and clear judicial decision in favor of church-state separation; galvanizing the creation of two online communities, one of atheist suppport for atheist students isolated or harassed in their own communities and one of public support for secular education; inspiring other students to challenge their schools’ unconstitutional displays and practices; encouraging others to start branches of the Secular Students’ Alliance; enabling atheists to show group charity by contributing to a scholarship fund for her; speaking at the national Reason Rally; attending Secular conferences; inspiring others to create standard letters dealing with church-state violations; modelling courage for unpopular stands.

  29. chrisco says

    Yep, I cant believe i didnt realize. i knew at the end something was fishy but never connected the 2.