Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rhode Island Follies

Two Rhode Island State Representatives have disgraced themselves by personally attacking a sixteen year old girl on talk radio and Twitter. The girl in question, Jessica Ahlquist, had had the temerity to challenge the presence of a prayer banner in a public school. In a court case, the judge unsurprisingly ruled that long-established legal precedents barred the presence of the banner in public schools. As Greta Christina reports on Alternet, State Representative Peter G. Palumbo referred to her as a "pawn star" and an "evil little thing" on WPRO talk radio, while State Senator Beth Moura snidely called her "the ACLU's sweetheart" on Twitter.

My Gut Reaction: Stay classy, Pete and Beth, stay classy.

Analysis: I love it when the more fanatical Christians show their true colors. For all their talk about love, many fundamentalist Christians become genuinely hateful when their faith is challenged. Rather defensive, actually, as if they were not convinced of its truth.

As much as I like having my beliefs confirmed, there is nothing funny about seeing public officials insult and harass a teenage girl. Beth Moura is particularly disgusting. After making her comment on Twitter, another Twitter user tweeted to the effect that her mouth would need to be big to fit a foot into it. As Hemant Mehta points out on the Friendly Atheist blog, this is a clear reference to the classic idiom "to put a foot in one's mouth."

So how does Beth Moura respond? By claiming that the tweet was a threat and calling the police. So now law enforcement time is going to be wasted because a state senator can't interpret common English.

Moura's response is particularly galling given that Jessica Ahlquist herself has received death threats as a result of her activism. (Hey, I thought Christianity was the religion of love!) Some religious bloggers have gone so far as to tacitly endorse such threats. For example, the blogger at Christus Vincit posted a rant in which he states in regard to the threats:

To add insult to injury, now that Miz Ahlquist got her wish, she now fears for her life (apparently there have been threats against her, not surprising; I wish no harm on anyone, but I have to say, she had it coming) and she no longer wants to attend Cranston West, the very school she just (by some fluke) successfully sued.

Luckily, the humanist community is fighting back. Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta has started a scholarship fund for Jessica, which I heartily recommend everyone donate to. Similarly, in her Alternet article, Greta Christina posted Rep. Palumbo's office number so that we can tell him what sane people think of someone who compares a teenager to a porn star. (If you call Rep. Palumbo, please be respectful. We're humanists, not Christians after all.)

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