Jessica Ahlquist was 16 in 2011 when she questioned and then, with the help of the ACLU, brought legal action against her high school for prominently displaying an official Christian School Prayer. After nearly a year she (obviously) won her case.
Jessica earned few friends locally with her brave actions. She was repeatedly bullied by both other students and teachers, anonymously threatened with physical violence, rape and death and even earned the public ire of several famous conservatives. As vile as these were however our concern is with Peter Palumbo, her local state representative.
Peter decided to sum up his feelings about Jessica on a local talk radio station where he labeled her an “evil little thing“. This is detailed more fully in these Examiner.com and Cranston.patch.com pieces. This elected official singled out a child brave enough to suffer threat and insult to defend our constitution as “evil”. Soledad O’Brien interviews Jessica about this in this CNN clip from 2012:
On a positive note while Jessica lost many local friends she gained thousands of admirers around the world. So much so that Hemant Mehta, of FriendlyAtheist.com, was able to raise over $40,000 from the atheist/freethinker community to fund her future education.
Palumbo, like many politicians, fails to understand the Constitution. By his statements he places personal beliefs above his civic duty. He is most sad however – desperately, terribly sad – for attacking a little girl that clearly could do his job better than he can.
A good man, if he disagreed with her, might have engaged Jessica on the issue. He might have admired her bravery and the sheer gumption she displayed at so young an age. He could have marveled that a child still too young to vote would have such a passion for the foundational ideals of our country.
Palumbo took another path: he called her names. Rep. Palumbo earns twin charges of platinum-level Dickory and Dumbassery – and our eternal disdain.