Jessica Ahlquist

Jessica Ahlquist looks back — and ahead — 2 years after Ahlquist v. Cranston

Two years ago this week, Jessica Ahlquist’s life changed forever. On January 11, 2012, a federal judge ordered the removal of a “School Prayer” banner at Cranston High School West in Cranston, Rhode Island, saying that it violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Ahlquist—then a 16-year-old student at Cranston High School West—was a plaintiff in Ahlquist v. Cranston and effectively became its public face, appearing on CNN and in the New York Times. Ahlquist’s involvement in the lawsuit made her the target of a massive backlash—local florists refused to deliver flowers to her, hate mail poured in and Ahlquist needed police escorts, and Rhode Island State Representative Peter G. Palumbo (from Cranston) called her “an evil little thing” in a radio interview. The outcry against Ahlquist would have been a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a high school student. But Ahlquist stood her ground and emerged as a prominent activist for the separation of church and state, and to this day she continues to have a large number of supporters.

north carolina

N.C. minorities remain worried after religion bill is pulled

WILMINGTON, N.C. (RNS) A resolution aiming to give North Carolina the freedom to defy the Constitution and establish its own religion won’t get a vote in the N.C. General Assembly, but religious minorities say it’s a dangerous sign for a majority-Christian state with a growing minority population.

Defaced billboard

Newest front in the Christmas wars: billboards

(RNS) A billboard bearing a positive message about atheism has been vandalized — again. A billboard posted in Chico, Calif., that originally read “Don’t believe in God? Join the club” was defaced on Dec. 12, less than a week after it appeared, with vandals removing the word “don’t.” The billboard was one of 12 purchased this month by a local chapter of the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR),  a national organization that works to unite small, local groups of atheists and other freethinkers. They are the latest in a long line of billboards erected by atheist groups to draw ire, both locally and nationally.