Entries in Atheist (2)


R.I. Mayor Says Battle Against Prayer Banner Has Gone 'Too Far'

Comstock/Thinkstock(CRANSTON, R.I.) -- A controversy initiated by a teenage girl over a prayer banner in a Rhode Island public school has gone "too far," according to the town's mayor.

The teen, who is 16 and says she's an atheist, has received threats and the city is paying hefty amounts of money in legal fees.

A Rhode Island judge ruled last week that a prayer mural at Cranston High School West needs to be removed "immediately," but members of the community are fighting back by pursuing an appeal that would cost the city more money in a legal battle that has already racked up tens of thousands of dollars in fees.

"I think it's gone too far," Cranston Mayor Allan Fung told ABC News. "Our country was built upon civil discourse, not hate for one person exercising their constitutional rights."

Fung said, however, that if it were up to him, "I would say, respect the judge's decision and not take the appeal because, unfortunately, we could not afford these costs in these tight budgetary times."

The teenager at the center of the controversy is junior Jessica Ahlquist, who has thousands of supporters on a number of Facebook pages, Twitter and her own website.

"I would definitely say that being an atheist is a big part of my identity, mostly because I'm an activist," Ahlquist said in a YouTube video that answered questions from supporters. "I wouldn't say that I go shoving atheism down anyone else's throat. I just feel passionate about activism and specifically activism for atheism."

The battle began in July 2010 when Ahlquist informed her local ACLU chapter of the mural addressed to "Our Heavenly Father" that is displayed in the auditorium of her school. Ahlquist said in her ACLU suit that the banner made her feel "ostracized and out of place."

The mural has been in the school since 1963 and a school committee said it was "historical" and "artistic."

The matter went before U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux, who decided on Jan. 12, "No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer." He ordered that it be taken down, but the mural is currently still up but covered with a tarp.

On Tuesday night, nearly 300 members of the school community attended a school committee meeting and the majority of those in attendance were calling for an appeal to the decision so that the banner could stay up. Some carried signs that said, "Appeal or we'll vote them out," according to ABC News' Providence affiliate WLNE.

No decision on whether or not to appeal was reached at the meeting as the item was not on the pre-determined agenda.

Ahlquist was at the meeting and said she would "definitely" do what she did again, even if she has been getting frightening threats.

A few extra police officers were on hand in case anything was to get out of control, but nothing happened. The school board said it is not ready to make a decision yet on whether to appeal the decision.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ad Campaign Promoting Atheism Draws Ire and Protest

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- This holiday season, after the marathon of shopping and stressful travel comes to a close, the masses will finally gather to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. But one group says it is using the most religious time of the year to call attention to the plight of an often forgotten group: non-believers and atheists.

Advertisements paid for by the American Humanist Association -- an organization of non-believers -- have been popping up on television, radio and on billboards in cities across the country. The organization has spent more than $200,000 to get their campaign out into the public this season, with the hope that it will encourage atheists across the country to step out of the closet.

The association said it chose to launch the controversial – and to some, highly offensive – campaign at the end of the year to promote its agenda and counter the religious overtones of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holiday season.

"Us doing these ad campaigns during the holiday season shouldn't be any different than doing them any other time of year, except for this idea that criticizing religion is taboo," said Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association. "Well, we'd like that taboo to be set aside."

Atheists tend to agree that religion is oppressive and far too intrusive in American society and politics, and liken their situation to that of homosexuals 20 years ago, he said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio