Jessica Ahlquist, who sued her school to have a prayer removed from the gymnasium wall, is speaking to government students Tuesday, during Constitution Week.
What started as muted frustration among some parents of York High School government students over the choice of a speaker for Constitution Week is now a multi-pronged debate—in some cases heated—between educators, parents, atheists and the Illinois Family Institute.
Citizen Advocacy Center in Elmhurst selected this year's speaker for Constitution Week, as they have for the past two years.
"The CAC does the legwork as far as finding and selecting speakers and we make ourselves available that week for the person to come to our school," said Charles Ovando, Research and Social Sciences Division chairman at York.
The speaker this year, 17-year-old Jessica Ahlquist, is an atheist from Rhode Island who filed a federal lawsuit to force her high school to remove a religious banner that had hung in the school's gymnasium for 49 years.
Atheism is a polarizing subject, as Ahlquist found. She won her battle to have the prayer removed, but bullying and threats in her school and community forced her to withdraw from school.
And here in Elmhurst, a predominantly Christian/Catholic community, the polarization continues. The CAC refers to Ahlquist as a "defender of free speech" who stood up against tremendous adversity in the name of democracy. But some parents see the visit as a means to thrust liberal talking points on teenagers.
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