"It's Not About Religion"

Cranston High School West in Rhode Island is a public school which has a prayer affixed to a wall in the auditorium. 16 year old Jessica Ahlquist has been fighting for two years to get it removed on the grounds that it violates the separation of church and state. You can read an interview with Jessica here. The school is insisting on keeping it because it is a matter of tradition, not religion. Our own Digital Cuttlefish quotes Ahlquist’s public detractors and puts their invective, their goals, and their disingenuous arguments to verse:

She’s out for attention! That’s all that this is!
The god-hating liberal, atheist slut!
We good Christian people should teach her a lesson
How sometimes it’s safer to keep your mouth shut.

How dare she insult us? How dare she mock God?
How dare she belittle the prayer in the hall?
How dare she believe that the law’s on her side—
Remember… this isn’t religious at all!

A detailed account of the facts of the case and some relevant precedents that will likely decide the case in court can be found here (again, via Cuttlefish).

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Aaron

    I don’t know. I’m definitely for separation of church and school, but there’s a few details missing that I think are key, legally speaking. “Our Heavenly Father” is pretty generic. Jesus is specifically Christian; the idea of a heavenly Father is pan-religious. It does not consist of endorsing a particular theology (although it obviously does leave out atheism).

    The accounts I’ve read are all abridged as to the words of the banner. I’ve been to Cranston East once, but never to Cranston West. Hard to tell if it goes too far. And is it for decoration only? That’s different than active use (which would clearly be over the line). Is there a cross, or a church or an affiliation listed?

    At the least, it is tacky. Illegal, I don’t know. But insensitive. Just because you can get legal OK for something doesn’t make it right.

    After I moved here, I found out Westerly Town Council meetings begin with a specifically Christian prayer. When an Italian Catholic councilor decided that wasn’t appropriate, she was attacked as being anti-Italian and anti-Catholic. Go figure.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      In America “Our Heavenly Father” is unambiguously Christian. It’s a citation of the freaking Lord’s Prayer.

    • http://rockymountainoutpost.wordpress.com/ Kyle

      The state is not just supposed to be neutral between Christianity and other faiths, and certainly not, contrary to what people like David Barton tell you, pro-Christian but neutral between different Christian sects.

      The state is to be neutral, period, regarding religion. It is to be secular. Hands off. It is to neither promote nor inhibit anyone’s private religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

      My place of work has plenty of religious believers in it. But there is no company-sponsored prayer. No posting of religious messages (not even of a ceremonial deistic kind). No Ten Commandments on the walls.

      But in neither case are these institutions therefore anti-religion. Just non-religious. For some reason, however, some people will tell you that the lack of official religious activity on government premises is prima facie evidence of said institution being “anti-God” or “kicking God out of school”.

  • http://rockymountainoutpost.wordpress.com/ Kyle

    Interesting that in the same article you have people saying “it’s not religious” but when push came to shove it was all about “standing up for God”.

  • Aaron

    Just saw a photo of the banner. It says “School prayer” above it. It looks and reads like it’s an official prayer, not just some old relic that mention a “heavenly father.”

    Not kosher.