Citizen Advocacy Center and DuPage County High Schools welcome high school student Jessica Ahlquist, defender of free speech, for the 225th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.
Ahlquist will be visiting Citizen Advocacy Center, 182 N. York Road in Elmhurst, at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, to speak on, "What drives individuals to stand up for Constitutional rights in the face of adversity." The event, which is in celebration of our democracy and the living U.S. Constitution, is free and open to the public.
Constitution Week commemorates the formation and signing of the United States Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787. Celebrating Constitution Week provides an opportunity for the public to remember the importance of a document held in esteem worldwide for empowering “We the People” with the rights and responsibilities to engage in the democratic process. The First Amendment Freedoms, (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to petition our government, freedom to assemble, and freedom of religion) are essential components that ensure a healthy democracy and the capacity to hold government accountable.
“Constitution Week recognizes the importance of our founding document by introducing students and adults to constitutional issues through a dynamic speaker who has first hand knowledge of what it means to fight for freedom. Ms. Ahlquist’s experience illustrates the tensions in our democracy while sharing a remarkable journey in First Amendment advocacy,” said Maryam Judar, community lawyer at the Citizen Advocacy Center.
Jessica Ahlquist is a young atheist who requested that her public high school remove a religious banner from hanging within the public school gym building. When the school refused, Ms. Ahlquist spoke at school meetings and shared her feelings of exclusion. She started a Facebook page dedicated to a discussion of the banner. When all other avenues of advocacy failed, Ms. Ahlquist and her family filed a federal court lawsuit against her high school, claiming a First Amendment violation of religious free speech. Though Ms. Ahlquist prevailed in her legal battle, she also experienced bullying and threats at school and online as well as ostracism in the community at large.
Regardless of an individual’s viewpoint on religion, Ms. Ahlquist’s experience raises a question for adults and young people alike: What drives individuals to stand up for constitutional rights in the face of adversity? Downers Grove North High School, York High School, and Waubonsie Valley High School welcome Ms. Ahlquist to talk with hundreds of students about her First Amendment advocacy and experience standing up for a right. In addition, Ms. Ahlquist will be speaking at a public forum at the Citizen Advocacy Center on Monday, Sept. 17, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Citizen Advocacy Center is a non-profit, non-partisan community based legal organization dedicated to building democracy for the 21st Century by increasing the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. Support for this program has been provided by the McCormick Foundation. For more information or to register please call 630-833-4080 or visit our events page.