Cranston Votes Not to Appeal Prayer Ruling

In very good news, the Cranston school board in Rhode Island has voted not to appeal the court ruling in the Jessica Ahlquist case over a prayer mural in the school’s auditorium, despite a massive campaign demanding that they do so. The cost of doing so after they inevitably lose at the appeals court level appears to have been the key factor:

Appeal opponents cited the legal costs as grounds for giving up the fight and proposed saving the money for education costs.

Lawyers representing Ahlquist have asked the court to order the city to pay $173,000 for legal fees. Attorney Joseph Cavanagh Jr., who represented the city, said a legal fight in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston and the U.S. Supreme Court would cost another $500,000 in legal fees.

“You will be wasting time and incredible resources. Half a million dollars? How dare you,” resident Rosemary Tregar said.

The costs swayed two members of the school committee who had voted last year to fight litigation over the banner.

Committee member Paula McFarland said the city is facing rising poverty and money must be spent wisely, drawing jeers from appeal supporters.

Now here’s the absurd part:

Appeal supporter, Christopher Young, who is running for U.S. Congress, said he is talking to students about suing the school.

Good luck trying to argue that the school is violating the constitution by not having a prayer mural on the wall.

And here’s the super cool part:

Some Ahlquist supporters wore T-shirts that said “Evil little thing,” a reference to comments made by state Rep. Peter G. Palumbo, a Cranston Democrat, about the teen on talk radio.

Awesome! People wore our shirts. But here’s the sad thing: This decision is likely to induce a whole new round of vile hatred toward Jessica.

Oh, and JT live blogged the whole hearing. Some of the behavior from the wingnuts was predictably appalling. And I like this:

Some guy just said that not appealing this means his children won’t be able to have the same values as him.

Yup! Unless that prayer is on that wall, your kids will start dancing in clubs and studying civics just to spite you.

The guy after him said that the attack on religion by Mr. Obama is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Reading bible quotes now. Oh and appeal or this is a communist country.

Think that’s some inconsequential nut? Nope! It’s Peter G. Palumbo, a state rep in Rhode Island, and a Democrat. And they applaud! FML.

And here’s epic dumbass Michael Egnor in the very first comment on JT’s blog:

The ACLU has already threatened the school with much higher legal fees if they appeal (and lose).

A shakedown. “Nice school you got there. Shame is something happened to it”.

Funny, I’ve never heard Egnor say this when religious right legal groups file lawsuits against schools, as they do all the time. I’ve never heard any critic of the ACLU make the same argument when they agree with the lawsuit. When their side does it, they’re just standing up for principle; when the other side does it, it’s a mafia shakedown. Special pleading much?

"Thank you. I hadn't heard of this."

Jones: Democrats Use MS-13 to Kill ..."
"Wait. We're in the Matrix? Any moment now, we'll break free and find ourselves in ..."

Jones: Democrats Use MS-13 to Kill ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John Hinkle

    I don’t know if they’re making the right decision by backing down. I mean c’mon, what’s two thirds of a million bucks when eternal salvation is on the line? Can’t they at least try to pray in the money? Jesus is going to be pissed.

  • Chiroptera

    Committee member Paula McFarland said the city is facing rising poverty and money must be spent wisely, drawing jeers from appeal supporters.

    Heh. Yeah, we already know priorities of the moron brigade, but it’s still nice that they make it explicit.

  • eric

    John: Can’t they at least try to pray in the money?

    Why not just pray for a miraculous overturning, no apppeal needed?

    Oh, that’s right, on a pragmatic level none of these believers act like they believe prayer works.

  • JoeBuddha

    I think we should thank the good people of Cranston for being such a textbook example of true Christian Love. Obviously, “turn the other cheek” and “love thy neighbor” are just talking points and are not intended to be factual statements. I’ll remember that the next time they’re mentioned in a discussion…

  • eric

    BTW, if anyone is interested in the play-by-play, JT Eberhard posted ‘live blogging’ comments from some folks who were at the meeting. Go to the “What would JT do?” link on the Freethought Blogs list.

  • Appeal supporter, Christopher Young, who is running for U.S. Congress, said he is talking to students about suing the school.

    Because that’s a good way to address the issue of the school losing money on legal fees?

  • Chiroptera

    Appeal supporter, Christopher Young, who is running for U.S. Congress, said he is talking to students about suing the school.

    Now if these students were to try to sue the school for such an open-and-shut case, could the school recover legal fees from them?

    ‘Cause I think that would be a great educational experience! Hey, it’d be win-win!

  • MikeMa

    You may well laugh at the ‘pray for money’ quote but the Cranston Patch was live blogging and at least one moron appeal supporter said not to worry the lord would provide. Others were offering to foot the appeal bill a few dollars at a time with a $1000 ante by someone at the high table. I can now more easily understand why the area is impoverished.

  • dingojack

    “Some of the behavior from the wingnuts was predictably appalling”.

    And where are all those moderate christians speaking out to condemn this appallingly ‘unchristian behaviour’?

    Oh that right – that’s a standard only expected of others, silly me.


  • dingojack — Here’s one:

    There have been lots of others. Let’s not allow the behavior of some Christians make us insult all Christians.

  • doktorzoom

    This is an excellent opportunity for God to immediately show Himself by smiting Cranston from the face of the earth for its blasphemy. Heck, if a pillar of fire consumes the whole town in a millisecond, I might start believing in the vengeful old bastard myself–not worshiping, because who wants to worship a vengeful old bastard, but if He leaves a signed note on the charred remains of Cranston, that wold at least constitute some evidence.

    And no, if an electrical short burns down part of the school’s gym, that’s not divine intervention.

  • peterh

    And so many in Cranston (and elsewhere) still don’t comprehend why it was pointless to pursue the matter even to this point. Oh! The martyr complex! I forgot. Nemmine.

  • @peterh: also because of the myth that the US is a Christian nation (and not just a nation where a majority of people are Christian).

  • slc1

    It should also be noted that Mr. Brayton’s favorite fucktard, Robert O’B*ian showed up on JT’s blog with his usual display of stupidity.

    As for Dr. Egnor, I hope anyone who allows that putz to come withing 10 feet of him/her with a scalpel has paid up life insurance.

  • plutosdad

    They jeer spending money on poverty and education, just like in South Carolina they booed the Golden Rule. Have any of these people ever even read what their Jesus says?

  • I don’t see anything from O’Brien on that thread. Where is he?

  • The Lorax

    I’d love to write up a nicely worded response, but I can’t think of anything so I’ll sum up my thoughts thus:


  • slc1

    Re Ed Brayton @ #16

    Actually, fucktard O’Br*en showed up at the web site below and engaged both JT and his father with the usual crap that separation of church and state isn’t in the Constitution.

  • Tualha

    Sure is funny how impotent their supposedly omnipotent god is turning out to be. Seems like he can’t get anything done without human help. Well, maybe he’s just really petulant and won’t do the right thing without more prayer.

  • brocasbrian

    Special pleading is their bread and butter.

  • dingojack

    Ed (#10) – but- but- shouldn’t every single christian moderate speak up against their ‘uncristian’ brethern.

    Sauce for goose…



    And, of course, in their own words, ‘by their fruits…’

  • raven

    Have any of these people ever even read what their Jesus says?

    No. Of course not. Why should they?

    Their jesus is just a sockpuppet. Jesus hates what they hate. Jesus wants them to have what they want.

    Looks like their jesus is a right wing extremist with an IQ around room temperature and a meth and alcohol problem.

  • piero

    I don’t see any readon to be happy about this shameful episode. Of course, it’s good that Jessica has finally won a hard-fought battle in defence of the constitution. But how many people have been forced to let their rights be trampled upon because they could not afford the legal fees? Is this what a democracy is about? What if instead of a school Jessica had sued General Motors?

    Something is very, very wrong with the legal system, and until something is done about it the much-touted American democracy is at best a pipe dresm, and at worst a dictatorship of capital.

  • dingojack wrote:

    Ed (#10) – but- but- shouldn’t every single christian moderate speak up against their ‘uncristian’ brethern.

    Of course not. Should they all disagree with it? Of course. But most of them probably don’t even know about it. This is an identical argument to the one I’ve seen aimed at me when I criticize something done by some Christians — “Well why don’t you speak out against (fill in the blank of some awful Muslim crime I wasn’t even aware of)?” It’s the kind of argument we find convincing only when it’s aimed at someone we already disagree with; when it’s aimed at someone we agree with, we quite reasonably recognize that our ally may have different priorities, may not be aware of the situation, may focus their time on other things, and lots of other entirely plausible reasons. To require “every single Christian” who disagrees with this to take a public stand is as absurd as require every single atheist to take a stand on … well, on anything. It’s just an unreasonable demand. If, say, Ken Miller has not taken the time to comment on this particular situation, would that mean he supports all the hateful attacks? Of course not. It probably just means that he’s busy working on other things, like teaching his classes, doing his research and fighting against creationism. It doesn’t mean he would find it anything other than appalling, any more than my not mentioning some particular horrible thing taking place somewhere means I’m in favor of it, or that I have some obligation to do so.

  • BobApril

    One point that Ed and others make over and over in these cases is that even when the leaders and lawyers makes claims that the issue is “tradition” or “ceremonial theism,” we can always count on the wingnuts to shout out the real reason – government support for their special beliefs.

    At the risk of being a concern troll, though…aren’t we doing the same thing? Comments #3, 11, and 19 in particular – while I agree with each of you wholeheartedly, it seems that we are celebrating the triumph of atheism over Christianity, instead of the triumph of church/state separation over religious discrimination.

  • From Robert O’Brien in that thread on Patch:

    Mr. Eberhard must be referring to the Constitution of the former Soviet Union, which mandates the separation of church and state, as opposed to the U.S. Constitution, which does not. The judicial midrashim produced by glorified pettifoggers like Hugo Black is not the same as the actual text of the U.S. Constitution, nor was the relevant clause meant to be “incorporated” against the states, Mr. Eberhard’s delusions of adequacy notwithstanding.

    Yep, that’s the real Robert O’Brien. That’s exactly how he blathers. How amusing.

  • mikecallahan

    I’m dreading that there will be a lot more blowback directed at Jessica Alquist. Knowing Catholic culture well, I know they have Canon Law much like the Sharia law of the moslems. Canon law is what all the contraception wars are about. It also explains the culture of pedophile priests. Once you confess, the Catholics actually astonishingly believe your soul is wiped clean so you can enter heaven in spite of what you did. You can have a clean conscience after leaving the confessional. If your soul has a clean slate without sin then why not just transfer the pedophile to another distant parish . Canon Law trumps civil law to the clergy. Converts like Gingrich are typically the most fervent Catholics. Santorum criticized Kennedy’s view on church and state which displays his preference for Canon Law. He also claims the pedophile priest problem is because of liberals.

  • It’d certainly be encouraging to hear more noise from pro-separation Christians, but I recognize there are factors that can get in the way. A lot of the media probably want the issue framed as atheists versus fundie Christians because that gets ratings and reinforces a popular narrative. In general, the loudest people tend to get the most coverage, even without intentional bias.

    I also imagine a lot of pro-separation Christians are subject to similar intimidation as atheists. If you’re a lurker fitting that description, feel free to speak up, even if you do so under a pseudonym. The more people who speak up about the issue, the easier it’ll be for others to find the courage.

  • Ed, you masochist! Seeking out O’Brien? What is wrong with you!?


    piero @ 23- I kind of agree about the legal fees. I’d much rather see the case through to its end on the merits of the legal arguments. In this case it did and they lost, but appeals are an important part of the process and I don’t like to think of people giving up because they don’t have the funds to pursue it.

    Though I suspect they didn’t appeal because they were advised not to for legal reasons and just used the money excuse to look like victims. (Though I really have no idea how the legal fees get worked out in these cases and should probably just be quiet now.)

  • Chiroptera

    And I have another question.

    Is Cranston going to remove the “god” part and leave most of the aphorism up?

    Or are they going to get all pissy and just paint over the whole thing?

  • John Phillips, FCD

    Bob April, actually, they are just having a laugh. After all, if this god of theirs was as powerful as they claim, it should be able to cope with church state seperation laws. Possibly with a bit of the usual smiting, yeah I know, his aim apparently isn’t what it was, but he is getting on a bit so what are you to do. So any triumphalism that you imagine, would be of more one over the maroons, you know the ones who thinks he is all powerful but needs their help to get things done, rather than over the religious in general. Though Cranston does appear to have more than its share of the vocal former type, as Jessica can attest.

  • dingojack

    Ed – I think your labouring under a misapprehension (a particularly nasty place to labour even with the penalty rates).

    For RRR the mere hint of ‘hyperbolic’ language from a Muslim results in a chorus of ‘but why won’t the moderates condemn this’? If the same comes from a Christian is all hands to the ‘no true Scotsman’ defence.

    If they can’t accept sexual equality in anserine saucing, then they can’t use this argument. Or if such an argument is ridiculous for a Christian it should be equally risible when applied to a Muslim (or anyone else).

    Either it applies to both (which I think we agree is a nonsense since individuals are responsible for only their own actions) or it applies to neither.


  • dingojack


    I meant ‘I think you’re labouring under a misapprehension…’

    I missed it. Sorry.


  • cowcakes

    Gandhi summed it up most eloquently .

    “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

    – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

  • JimB

    Chiroptera says:

    Is Cranston going to remove the “god” part and leave most of the aphorism up?

    The original offer was to paint over the (i think) 3 lines that made it a prayer. The school refused.

    I would hope at this point that editing is out of the question. Paint over the whole damn thing.