I don’t know if you are familiar with this story? A student at Cranston High School West in Rhode Island (U S of A) dared to tell the school board to obey the law. The law in question is none other than the establishment clause in the 1st Amendment of the US constitution. A banner with a school prayer had been situated in a prominent position, and such displays of overt religiosity on school grounds amount to a de facto favouring of people of a certain religion in a state institution.
The student spoke up, warning her school of its illegal nature. She didn’t immediately run to higher authority, she took it upon herself to inform her school.
I could not have done that at 16.
Only after she was rebuffed did she contact the American Civil Liberties Union, who informed the school by letter of the nature of the case against them, and requesting the banners removal. The school refused to comply with the law, so a lawsuit was built. The school elected to fight the case (using taxpayer’s dollars, I might add), despite being notified by their legal advisors that the case was pretty much open and shut. Jessica Ahlquist, the student in question, is even reported to have attended the meeting in which the decision to break the law was made and asked the school to not waste tax dollars on such a pointless case.
Well, predictably, ACLU and Miss Ahlquist (as plaintiff) won the case, necessitating the banners removal. The judge (a wishy washy liberal appointed by that most hippie of presidents Ronald Reagan) was quite forthright in his ruling (PDF).
Well, fine you might think. Some misguided bureaucrats had their wrists slapped, the non-christian students of Cranston High will be less marginalised, at least on the surface and citizens ruffled feathers have been smoothed by an incisive ruling by a member of the judiciary of a law-abiding country. Wrong! Tantrums galore from the religious idiots of Rhode Island, some even threatening a 16-year old with death for asking for equality. Jessica Ahlquist met this with class and wit:
Let’s get this straight; this is not about being anti-Christian, or anti-religion. The banner as it stood was a Christian prayer (the clues are the “Our heavenly father” and “Amen”, in case you were wondering) which by its nature marginalises the non-christians student body. Fact. What they wanted was special privilege for their beliefs. The US isn’t a theocracy yet.
Now, what triggered this was being linked to this Daily Mail (spit) “article”. Note the ironic use of speech marks. Nothing gets my twee British dander up like the Daily Mailicious, believe you me.
The Mails stance on this issue is blatantly obvious from the outset – I especially ‘love’ the use of the speech marks around the word ‘religious’ in the headline, suggesting that only those without the Daily Fails outstanding grasp on common sense and down-to-earth, honest-to-god middle English goodness would see this banner as religious (which in the context of this story is a bad thing, because that would mean the banner would have to be removed). They are so accomplished at twisting stories that they don’t even need to use words anymore. (Verdana Man would punish them for cruelty to apostrophes too! Inside joke, sorry.)
The Fail’s take on this story is the same as that used by most of the religious fools in Rhode Island; that this banner is not harmful, or even religious, it’s “just traditional”, and it’s about teaching morals to their students. Good old Christian Morals, they being so universal and all. Like those of the moral Christian wishing a curb stomping on a 16-year old just because he disagreed with her. Or the morals of the evil, poisonous, bigoted old codger in the Vatican branding gay marriage as a “threat to humanity”.
I’m not sure what conclusion I drew from all this in the end. I am not surprised by the vicious reactions to Miss Ahlquist’s win, nor am I surprised by the blatant bias shown by the Mail. The combination just happened to turn my normal good-natured amiability into a quiet seething frustration.
Sorry, I didn’t set out to have my second post be a rant, but this is what I found myself writing about this morning.