A few days after Jessica Ahlquist's important victory over an illegal prayer banner, some Rhode Islanders have started to fester over the ruling and attack the teenager personally.
Rep. Peter Palumbo D-R.I. called the 16 year old an "evil little thing" in an interview on the John DePetro Show on Newstalk 630 WPRO and 99.7 FM (East Providence, R.I.) He also referred to her as a pawn, "I think she is being coerced by evil people. . . she's being trained to do this." (Listen to the entire radio show here.)
FFRF sent a letter calling Palumbo's attack "vicious, unwarranted, and irresponsible." Wrote FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor: "If anything is 'evil' it is your inflammatory words contributing to a situation in which an entire community, if not state, appears to be arrayed against one young, brave and diminutive teenager. Your reckless and unprofessional words as an elected state official endanger Jessica’s standing and her security in the community."
Jessica, FFRF’s 2011 Thomas Jefferson Student Activist recipient who was awarded a $1,000 scholarship at FFRF's 34th annual convention (read her speech here), won a Jan. 11 federal challenge against a prayer banner hanging in her Rhode Island high school. U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled so appropriately that the banner must be removed immediately. The banner is titled “School Prayer,” addresses “Our Heavenly Father” and ends with “Amen.” (Read FFRF's news release here.) The federal judge took the unusual step of praising Jessica in his ruling, calling her “clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in light of the hostile response she has received from her community.”
The Ahlquist decision has garnered national media attention, enough to prompt her to release a video response about the victory. A tired, but strong Jessica answers online questions in hopes of setting the record straight and combating bullies and hate speech.
As the Chairperson of the House Committee on Rules, Palumbo needs to be reminded that the separation between state and church is a fundamental principle of the First Amendment and our nation. Please send a firm and concise message asking Palumbo for an immediate apology.
In order to combat this onslaught of hostility toward Jessica, FFRF asks you to show your support. Contact Palumbo (below). You can 'like' and post a positive message to the "We Support Jessica Ahlquist" Facebook page. You may also sign the "Support Jessica Ahlquist" petition created by a FFRF member.
Rep. Peter Palumbo
67 Kearney Street
Cranston, RI 02920
Phone: (401) 785-2882
Click here to use excerpts from FFRF's letter.
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