T Nation

School Prayer Banner



The Cranston School Committee voted Monday night to keep a prayer banner on public display at a city high school, even if it means a costly legal battle.

The controversy surrounds a prayer banner that starts "Our Heavenly Father ..." and ends with "Amen."

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has said it will sue if the banner remains, because it violates the constitution's principle of separation of church and state. The banner has hung on the auditorium wall at Cranston West for about 50 years.

The banner's creator said it was meant to be non-denominational.

"I don't believe that prayer has hurt or injured or warped a single one of them. They are probably better citizens for having recited, read or even seen my prayer," David Bradley said.

The meeting of about 200 people was filled with mostly supporters, many who say it is religiously right to keep it up.

But there are opponents too, those who said defending a lawsuit will be too costly. Others said it isn't right to mix religion and education.

In the end, it came down to a close vote, 4-3 with last minute appeals on both sides coming before the final vote.

The result came back today, the school lost.


The Court rules that Plaintiff [Ahlquist] has standing in this matter and rules in her favor on the merits of this dispute. The Court also orders the immediate removal of the Prayer Mural from the auditorium at Cranston West.


The Court refrains from second-guessing the expressed motives of the Committee members, but nonetheless must point out that tradition is a murky and dangerous bog. While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve. At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction. The Court concludes that Cranston?s purposes in installing and, more recently, voting to retain the Prayer Mural are not clearly secular.


Plaintiff is clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in light of the hostile response she has received from her community.


To add my opinion, the banner doesn't particularly bother me.

I see it as a symbol of tradition and history more than anything else. If I were in school with these kids it wouldn't bother me. However it's straight up dumb wasting large amounts of money in a civil case defending it. If someone threatened legal action, I would've just taken it down.


This is why we must demand some kind of voucher system, and let religious folks frequent their own untouchable religious schools.


In Ontario, the Catholic school board and its schools are 100% funded by the provincial government. The only religion that has this privilege in Ontario.

Edit: Looking it up, there are 168 elementary schools, 31 high schools, 2 art schools in the Toronto area alone. $1,050,000,000 budget and 30,625 students - remember that's only Toronto.


Good for them.


In other news, the administration gets a one-sided smack down.

Justices Give Churches a Freer Hand on Employment


I don't get it, why would a public school want to put themselves through this, and waste taxpayer money on the legal battle? Seriously? If you want to work at or attend a parochial school, then work at or attend a parochial school. Why push this religious bullshit on the public, at a public school? Bullshit.


LOL. Particularly regarding the murky and dangerous bog. That must be what they consider traditional judicial precedence for jurisprudence then as well. It would certainly make sense with some of their rulings in the last 20 years...


See, I agree with the first part of your post, but not the last. IMVHO they did the right thing on voting whether or not to fight the case, naturally. But I also see it as....I dunno, articulation fails me at the moment...I would have fought. if you believe something is "ok" but not enough to fight for it, clearly you don't believe it's all that "ok" in the first place. Similar with the abortion issue--the "i'm personally against it but publically don't care" position loses points with me. Regardless of the political realities or the correctness, if you're not really willing to stand for your primary belief you don't really believe it do you?

And yes, that is a very extreme example to compare a banner with, I know, I know. It is the same kind of situation though, and all I could think of at the moment. :S


Yeah, not a fan of this at all. I don't believe it's appropriate for a gov't to do that. Now, if you want to either a) fund ALL different religious sect schools (muslim, etc) then ok fine, and b) if you want to fund NONE of the different religious sects then ok fine.

Don't pick one. That was the essence of the original First Amendment that the Founding Fathers over here developed---it wasn't to take down traditional signs or eradicate religion from public schools, or stone sculptures of the 10 Commandments, it was to prevent a state-funded or, particularly, state--ORDAINED/SUPPORTED (or "sponsored") religion from being picked up or rooted (ala Church of England style).


Not trying to start a battle with you, but I'd point out that it hasn't been a problem for 50 years....so why is it now all of a sudden so evil? It's been accepted for 50 years, not "pushed" on anybody, just sitting there. It doesn't even reference a specific deity.


You have to pick your battles. I'd rather not take away money from sports, clubs and class supplies to pay legal fees. The way I see it, you're creating an even greater net loss for the school by defending the banner.

I would've conceded and then given the banner to a theist school that would've appreciated it.


Good decision. The government - a public school no less - has no business taking a position that clearly supports religion vs. no religion, or theism vs. atheism. IMO, this kind of blatant governmental endorsement of religion is a large contributing factor for the ridiculous stereotypes many have of atheists.

The more visible governmental endorsement of religion becomes the easier it is for people to justify their ridiculous ideas that non-christians are not "true Americans" or are untrustworthy. But that's just my little hypothesis.

There are so many things wrong with this kind of endorsement but i'll focus just on this tidbit: the school employee said the prayer is not denominational, therefore it is "A-OK." That says nothing of the fact that it clearly demonstrates that this school believes religion takes precedence over no-religion, and theism over atheism.

Teach math, science, history, civics, etc. Theological stances about the existence of god do not belong in a public, tax-funded school.


Again, vouchers, so the children of lower-mid income religious folk can take advantage of schools more to their liking.


Well Christians are now hurling threats and insults at the girl who brought on this case.





Not nice. But humans are humans. Use courts to upend local community traditions and atmosphere, and you're not going to make friends. One day, when they're editing out Creator from government copies of the Declaration, it'll probably be even worse. Let's get them vouchers going. Religious folks of lesser means won't have to be subject to compulsory secular education.


Is the declaration considered a legal document though? I thought it wasn't.


Well, I assume there's tax dollars helping to preserve those words and/or provide as text on government archival/historical websites. I doubt the banner was meant to be a contract, either.