Nov 16, 2012

A journalist who exposed the inner workings of a shadowy Religious Right group and a Rhode Island student who courageously challenged illegal religious activity at her public school will both be recognized by Americans United for Separation of Church and State on November 19.

Jeff Sharlet, author of the best-selling books The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power and C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy, will receive Americans United’s Person of the Year Award.

Sharlet’s books examined a secretive Religious Right organization known as The Family that operates on Capitol Hill and other governmental centers. Reviewers called The Family “utterly original,” “brilliantly reported” and “a must read.”

Ahlquist will receive Americans United’s Youth Activist Award. A high school senior, Ahlquist garnered national attention last year when she successfully challenged the display of a large prayer banner at Cranston High School in West Cranston, R.I.

Ahlquist received a torrent of abuse and threats after filing the lawsuit and is finishing her final year of school by studying at home.

“Jeff Sharlet and Jessica Ahlquist have advanced church-state separation in important ways,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Jeff has written widely about the Religious Right and has helped Americans grasp the threat this theocratic movement poses. Jessica courageously stood up for religious liberty in her hometown, never backing down even in the face of ugly threats.”

Added Lynn, “Americans United is pleased to have the opportunity to celebrate these two activists.”

The awards ceremony will take place during a luncheon meeting of the Americans United Board of Trustees in Washington, D.C., Nov. 19.