Three Illinois public schools are coming under fire because of a decision to invite First Amendment advocate Jessica Ahlquist to speak during their "Constitution Week" festivities. (FFRF'ers can hear and meet Jessica at FFRF's upcoming annual convention in Portland Oct. 12-13, where she will receive the "Freethinker of the Year" Award.)
Ahlquist, 17, still in high school, is scheduled to discuss her successful state-church lawsuit over a prayer banner at her Cranston, R.I., high school. She will speak at York Community High School, Waubonsie Valley High School and Downers Grove North High School this week.
The Illinois Family Institute (IFI), "a non-profit ministry dedicated to upholding and re-affirming marriage, family, life and liberty in Illinois" has issued a mean-spirited call to Illinois citizens to protest Ahlquist's appearances at the schools.
The group argues that "York and Waubonsie Valley high schools sent out permission slips to parents, permission slips that failed to include any information whatsoever about Jessica Ahlquist, the specifics of her lawsuit, or any details regarding the topics she would be addressing or the learning objectives her presentation is intended to fulfill." IFI mainly seems to feel Jessica's atheism is the issue. Very few adults have had the first-hand experience Jessica has had in defending the Establishment Clause and in winning a Federal Court battle.
A parent contacted a Waubonsie teacher who spoke against the group's suspicions: "The purpose of the optional presentation is so that students may see that the US Constitution, which is the foundational document for our country’s government, is still relevant today."
Help counter the outcry from the religious right, as IFI is encouraging its members to take action by contacting school administration and school board members.
Please call and/or email school officials to show your support for Jessica and their decision to invite her. Students should be aware of what is involved in standing up for their individual freedoms and rights. What Jessica has had to endure should not be taken lightly. Jessica's credentials as a First Amendment litigant/victor are unique and impeccable.
York Community High School
Diana Smith, Principal
Phone: (630) 617-2401
Click here to email members of the school board.
Waubonsie Valley High School
Jason Stipp, Principal
Phone: (630) 375-3310
Curt Bradshaw, School Board President
Phone: (630) 717-6916
North High School
Scott Kasik, Principal
Phone: (630) 795-8411
Click here to contact members of the school board.
I stand behind your decision to invite Jessica Ahlquist to speak during "Constitution Week." Jessica has every right to share her story with your high school students, including being a victim of bullying (even by her own state representative). It is important students today know that they have a voice and place in our secular government and who better to tell that story than Jessica? Thank you for selecting Jessica as a "Constitution Week" speaker.
Thank you for your help!