In the fifties, Americans cemented an already existing reputation for being rude, arrogant, loudmouthed boors when visiting other countries — earning the epithet “the Ugly American.” But the Ugly American has nothing on the Ugly American Christian, and Jessica Ahlquist has been feeling the full weight of Christian ugliness.
A Rhode Island high school student, Jessica Ahlquist asked her school’s administration to remove a prayer banner than hung in the school’s auditorium. They refused. She took them to court, and won. The judge ordered the banner removed “immediately.” The school administration, in flagrant violation of the order, instead covered it with a sheet and locked the auditorium, and has still not decided whether to appeal the decision.
Whether the administration will appeal seems to depend on whether somebody will offer to pay their legal costs. The Vice President of the Cranston School Committee, Frank Lombardi, says, “We’ve cut gifted programs and sports and art and music. Those are things you need to look at the dollars, you have to look at the dollars.” In other words, the School Committee has already spent money on a legal battle to defend Christian cultural dominance in Rhode Island while cutting funding for school programs, but even they have a limit. Now they’d like their fellow Christians to pony up some donations so they can continue the fight.
Jessica’s own state representative, Democrat Peter Palumbo, has publicly called her “an evil little thing” who is “being coerced by evil people.” Palumbo has said that if the city and the school committee don’t fight to save the prayer banner, he’ll continue the fight himself.
Meanwhile, Christians have taken to the Internet in droves to show us all just what kind of values they’ve learned from their religion. Jesus Fetus Fajita Fishsticks has collected a large number of screenshots of these outpourings of Christian love: If by “Christian love” you mean hatred & contempt… It’s quite a collection; here’s a sample:
But one of the most indignant Christians in all this has been the author of the prayer, David Bradley. Bradley was in the seventh grade when school administrators asked him to write the School Prayer. Now in his sixties, he says he’s “absolutely incensed, disenfranchised and outraged. It’s just one more example of secularism eroding the fabric of America.”
In March 2011, Bradley spoke at a school board meeting, reminiscing that
Before that prayer, we used to line up in our homerooms, and after the Pledge we would say the Our Father. (applause) We said it the Catholic way, and the Protestant kids and the Jewish kids didn’t care.
Bradley is sure they didn’t care. Maybe they didn’t. But the point is that they didn’t have a choice. Their freedom of religion was trampled so the dominance of the majority religion could be asserted. One comment on the website of the Providence Journal is telling, though:
But that’s okay. For those who do mind, Bradley has a solution: “If you don’t like the prayer, look at the blank walls in the auditorium.”
Bradley also has a few choice words for Jessica, who, he says, didn’t think of objecting to the banner on her own. “I’m sure she didn’t think of it herself,” he says. In a radio interview, Bradley asserted, “I don’t believe that somebody who’s fifteen years old has enough of life’s experience to have a determination that way. … I believe that she’s just a trained seal.”
Bradley also lamented that “It’s been there all these years, and it’s a shame that some judge with an appointment out of a Cracker Jack box can make a ruling like that.”
So, let’s be clear: David Bradley, at 12, was fully competent to write a prayer on behalf of all Cranston West students ever, but Jessica Ahlquist, at 15, could not possibly be competent to object. Furthermore, in Bradley’s mind, his decision, having been appointed at age 12 by school administrators, clearly trumps the “appointment out of a Cracker Jack box” of Senior Judge Ronald R. Lagueux, who has been a judge since 1968 and was named to the U.S. District Court in 1986 by — oh, this has got to sting for the Religious Right — President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the United States Senate. Yeah, that’s a Cracker Jack box compared to Bradley’s august appointment, all right.
But here’s the really funny thing about all this. Do you know what the school prayer says? Here it is:
OUR HEAVENLY FATHER,
GRANT US EACH DAY THE DESIRE TO DO OUR BEST, TO GROW MENTALLY AND MORALLY AS WELL AS PHYSICALLY, TO BE KIND AND HELPFUL TO OUR CLASSMATES AND TEACHERS, TO BE HONEST WITH OURSELVES AS WELL AS WITH OTHERS. HELP US TO BE GOOD SPORTS AND SMILE WHEN WE LOSE AS WELL AS WHEN WE WIN. TEACH US THE VALUE OF FRIENDSHIP. HELP US ALWAYS TO CONDUCT OURSELVES SO AS TO BRING CREDIT TO CRANSTON HIGH SCHOOL WEST.
The funny thing is, State Representative Peter Palumbo; the good Christians of Cranston, Rhode Island; their supporters elsewhere; and even the author of the prayer himself, David Bradley, have demonstrated beyond any shadow of a doubt that they don’t really believe in any of that. When it comes down to it, they’re willing and eager to go against every line of the prayer, as long it means showing an atheist girl who’s boss.