I haven't weighed in on the Cranston prayer banner ordeal yet, but I'd like to take a moment to recognize this young lady as a true patriot and an American hero. Jessica Ahlquist took a stand, not for her beliefs, but for the beliefs of every person in this country against an overwhelming tide of ignorance and hatred. She saw a divisive, sectarian prayer hung in a public school and asked that it be removed so that students and educators of all faiths (or none) could feel equally represented and respected. Jessica knew that this country was not founded on Christian principles but a desire to get away from an oppressive religious regime and allow everyone the freedom to choose what and how they'll worship. Jessica knows this. Christians do not.
Ever since Jessica took her stand and won an appeal to have the banner taken down, Christians have been fuming and frothing at the mouth, trying to get a piece of her. These rabid dogs hunting Jessica down are the same people who thought this prayer, hung in the school gymnasium, represented the way they want to live their lives:
"Grow morally?" "Kind and helpful?" "Good sports and smile when we lose?" Guess what, Christians? You just lost. Smile and move on. The people who supposedly subscribed to this prayer are now hurling insults, threatening bodily harm, and generally being bad sports. How does that work, exactly? You can't have it both ways. You can't say, "I'm living my life in harmony with everyone else," and then turn around and say, "If you take down a banner that represents only my faith and excludes yours, I'll kick your ass!" Seriously, you can't do that.
It has been the argument of these sore losers that the prayer banner was "tradition" and had been hanging there for 50 years unmolested. That may be so, but there are plenty of traditions that have, over time, fallen by the wayside because they were deemed harmful, divisive, or just plain stupid. It takes time for society to catch up with these things but when it does it almost always comes out the better for it.
It's been said (by a psychic, no less) that Jessica was "49 years too late" on asking that the banner be removed. Maybe so, but Jessica isn't 50 years old and wasn't there to contest it when it was put up. She's just doing what she can in her lifetime to make this world more comfortable for people who have differing beliefs and may not be sitting comfortably in the majority like the "kind and helpful" Christians.
In addition, seeing the reaction of the "kind and helpful" Christians who are incensed that a banner was taken down (you'd think Jessica was asking to have Jesus re-crucified), it's no wonder that somebody hadn't spoken up before now. They probably would have gotten hanged or dragged behind a truck 50 years ago! Why would someone want to make waves in a climate like that? Luckily, non-belief is gaining acceptance and prominence in our culture and people like Jessica can stand for what they know is right without worrying (or, at least, without worrying excessively) that they'll die for it.
Taking down a banner is not the same as taking away your right to be a Christian. Taking down a banner is not the same as "removing prayer" from school. Christian students can still pray, same as before. What does taking down the banner mean? It means that Christians in the school and the school district cannot exert their will over all of the non-Christians by prominently airing their beliefs to the exclusion of all others. That's what it means.
Jessica, I salute you. You are a hero and a patriot.