Monday, February 20, 2012

An Interesting Place Rhode Island -
Some Thoughts on Jessica Ahlquist and Freedom From Religion

Freethought San Marcos: Our modern-day Puritans

OK, if you haven't heard, in a nutshell, Ms. Ahlquist is 16 years old, and attends a public school where there was an 8-foot (or so) banner in the gymnasium with a prayer on it. She sued to have it removed, and won. The school-board decided spending $500,000 it didn't have on a legal fight it would probably lose wasn't a good idea, so they won't appeal.

That isn't what is interesting to me.

What interests me, and the author of the referenced post is the behavior of some of the people in the town - which is in Rhode Island. Which was founded by Roger Williams when he was chased out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans due to their religious intolerance. (Who were chased out of England due to religious intolerance.)
So, long before anyone declared irony dead, we have in our own history a quintessential bit of double irony – a persecuted religious group flees its country to set up shop, where the group proceeds to persecute others for their religious beliefs, forcing one of their own flock to flee, seeking actual religious freedom elsewhere.
But back to that "Christian" behavior.

Well, OK, I'll "borrow" the disclaimer from the referenced article.
I don’t know that all the invective and threats directed at Ahlquist have been perpetrated by Christians, but it is hard to imagine the members of any other group who would be so outraged by Ahlquist’s actions. To their credit, members of several religious groups appealed for “tolerance and civility” in responding to the court decision.
Ms. Ahlquist has been harassed, bullied and threatened. It is so severe that she had to be provided with personal security to be able to attend class. The Congressman from her district (a Democrat) has called her "evil," among other names.
More than a dozen Rhode Island religious leaders spoke about the importance of people of all faiths, as well as non-believers, being able to live free from coercion. Rabbi Peter Stein of Cranston’s Temple Sinai and president of the Board of Rabbis said, “This is not about agreement or disagreement. This is about how we treat one another. The personal attacks must stop.” The clergy members included the Rev. William Zelazny of the Ballou Channing District Unitarian Universalist congregation; Imam Farid Ansari of the Muslim American Dawah Center; the Rev. Israel Mercedes of the Providence Bible Institute; and the Rev. Betsy Garland of the Rhode Island Council of Churches.
Now a new case has been filed against a group of flower shops in the area, because they refused to deliver bouquets to Ms. Ahlquist sent by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF). It is illegal for anyone running a "public accommodation," i.e. a business, in Rhode Island to deny service "on account of religion." 4 florists refused to deliver flowers, and they were eventually ordered from Connecticut.

Whether or not you think the banner was offensive, whether or not you believe prayer should be in public schools, I would hope everyone believes in acting like civilized, sane people. But apparently they don't.

NOTE: a discussion of this case is what prompted the post the other day on metaphysics. The main message of which is, "I don't give a rat's for what you believe. So why are you so incensed about what I believe that you have to try and force me to believe what you believe?"

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