What part of “all” don’t your understand?
Jessica Ahlquist, a RI atheist, won a suit against her school’s prayer poster.
“Our Heavenly Father,” the prayer begins, “grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful.” It goes on for a few more lines before concluding with “Amen.”
For Jessica, who was baptized in the Catholic Church but said she stopped believing in God at age 10, the prayer was an affront. “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here,’ ”(Abby Goodnough - NYT)
Earlier today, NPR ran a story on this, in which residents of Cranston RI were interviewed. I was amazed at how wrong people are about the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause. Comments made against the lawsuit and Ms. Ahlquist’s rights included the following:
“It’s freedom of speech. I really don’t feel as if there’s a concern with it. It’s not religious in any way at all.” (NPR)
The individual quoted above is clearly in need of a refresher on what the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says and means. The First Amendment states that “Congress (as of 1947, SCOTUS made this apply to the States in Everson v. Board of Ed) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” The “School Prayer” is exactly that, a prayer to the Christian “Heavenly Father”. This on its face, violates the establishment clause and also prohibits the free exercise of Ms. Alhquist’s non-belief. A governmental body, in this case a public school, is barred by the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause from displaying such a “prayer” upon challenge of such. The Court held in Grumet (512 US 687 (1994)) that “government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” By displaying this poster, banner, whatever you wish to call it, the school is clearly illustrating “preference” to a Christian religion. Also this display clearly infringes on Ms. Alhquist right to non-belief.
In summary, good for you Ms. Alhquist. Your non-belief is just as valid as any belief. Period.