Cranston High School West has this banner hanging in its auditorium:
Our Heavenly Father.
Grant us each day the desire to do our best.
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically.
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers.
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others.
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.
Teach us the value of true friendship.
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
Take away the beginning and the end and I think you have something pretty good there.
Some school officials are saying this shouldn’t be an issue. The banner’s been up there for over 50 years and no one has complained!
To that, the local American Civil Liberties Union branch wrote this (PDF) over the summer:
I understand that this prayer may have been posted in the auditorium for a long time. However, the crucial protections of the Bill of Rights have been around even longer. Even if there have been few, if any, formal complaints in the past from parents or students about this display, I can assure you –- based on our long experience dealing with these matters –- there are people, like our complainant, who have been offended by or concerned about it but who were fearful of coming forward.
On Monday night, a school committee tasked with figuring out how to handle all this came to their conclusion: They “voted to research the issue further.”
Part of what’s preventing them from fighting this battle — one they would and should lose — is money:
… The district owes the city more than $6 million.
“We are not in any position to take on more debt, no matter how righteous the cause is,” said School Committee member Stephanie A. Culhane, who described herself as a devout Catholic who teaches catechism.
Supt. Peter L. Nero, a practicing Catholic, recommended the School Committee rewrite the prayer. Legal expenses, he said, come at a cost: further cuts to education in a city that is already slashing its music and sports programs and this year eliminated its K-6 honor program.
“If people want to express themselves religiously, I would advise them to go to church,” said Nero. “I see a lot of empty pews next to me.”
It’s not a righteous cause. And you don’t need to research the issue any further.
Here’s what the school needs to do: Cut its losses, take down the current banner (or replace it), and focus on educating the students. They’re the ones who are suffering because selfish school officials want to waste taxpayer money circumventing the Constitution.
$6,000,000 could buy the district a number of Government teachers.
I’m sure those educators would be happy to teach the school officials about the law.
In the meantime, Jessica Ahlquist, an atheist student at Cranston West, has started a Facebook group: “Help us remove that prayer from Cranston West High School” — join it and help her fight what has to be a lonely battle.
(Thanks to Matt for the link)