When Jessica Ahlquist sued her Rhode Island High School to get a prayer mural taken down, she got a lot of shit — including from state lawmakers. But now, an atheist group has given her a big gesture of support — a $40,000 scholarship.
According to ABC, Ahlquist's suit was settled in her favor last month — Cranston High School West will have to take down its prayer mural dedicated to "Our Heavenly Father." Now lots of people are mad at her — local florists won't deliver flowers to her, and state representative Peter Palumbo (and Cranston West alum) called her an "evil little thing." Hemant Mehta, who blogs at Friendly Atheist, says, "every time stories come up about how people are treating this 16-year-old girl, my heart just goes out to her and I want to help her in some way." So he started a scholarship fund, which soon swelled to $40,000.
Ahlquist hasn't responded publicly to the scholarship yet, but in December, she made an interesting point on her blog:
Roger Williams founded Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in 1636 as a state of religious freedom. He had been banished from Massachusetts due to his religious beliefs and he wanted to establish a place where everyone was equal, regardless of their faith (or lack thereof).
It's especially ironic that Rhode Island was the place where a teenage girl was vilified just for wanting a reasonable separation between church and state. At least now she knows some people are behind her, and hopefully the scholarship will help her continue on her path of calling out bullshit and standing up for her rights.