Teen Atheist’s ACLU-Led Fight Against Prayer Mural to Cost RI City At Least $173,000

Many Cranston, Rhode Island, citizens likely found themselves frustrated over 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist's successful crusade against a prayer banner in her high school. Others, of course, supported her efforts. But following the educational and theological debate surrounding the mural's presence, there's a new point of contention to debate over -- the weighty cost of the legal battle she launched. As we've reported, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled in Ahlquist's favor last month. While the district hasn't yet decided whether it will appeal, the current decision requires the mural to come down and the district to pay for the teenager's legal feels. According to the final tally, the city of Cranston is being asked to dole out $173,000 in legal fees. This, of course, is on top of the costs the district incurred in both staff and legal fees for its own defense.

Lawyers from the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the request for funds on Tuesday. In addition to making the monumental financial demand, the ACLU claims that the lump sum doesn't encompass all of the time that the group spent on the case. Ahlquist will apparently only receive $25 in damages. Since the ruling, the teenager has faced ridicule from classmates, politicians -- even local businesses. However, she's standing by her original claim that the banner is unconstitutional and she shows no signs of backing down. “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to,” she said last week. “It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.