The Current Look of the Cranston High School West Prayer Banner

Remember the banner that used to be up at Cranston High School West?

This is what it looks like today:

I’d call that an improvement :)

By the way, you can still donate to the Jessica Ahlquist Scholarship Fund:



About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Chris-Leithiser/593361421 Chris Leithiser

    You have to wonder why nobody noticed (and most news reports still ignore) the words “SCHOOL PRAYER” at the top, in judging whether or not this is a, well, prayer in a school.  Must be a fnord in there or something.

  • Vetman1989

    Who cares

    • Todd Libasci

      Just curious: do you post that question on EVERY blog that doesn’t interest you?

      • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

        Who cares?

  • http://twitter.com/Knitterman Ray Whiting

    Looks like they covered it with a brand-new unfolded leaf-bag and hung a banner in front of it.    tacky, but still an improvement. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Greathouse/100003343289222 Andrew Greathouse

    So why didn’t they take it down? It takes a vandal just to uncover it >.> Smart staff they have there >.>

    • Anonymous

      Maybe they were counting on that.  Is the banner glued to the wall?  It would seem to take more effort covering up the words than it would to remove the banner.

      Maybe they’re considering their options with regards to a possible appeal.

  • http://www.decrepitoldfool.com/ george.w

    I’d guess they covered it with a tarp thinking that, after “all this blows over”, they could uncover it. 

    • http://twitter.com/CoboWowbo Cobo Wowbo

      That would be violating the judge’s order of removal. I’d hate to see the school lose it’s accreditation over a simple matter as this.

      • Gdwilli3

        How would they loose their accreditation over not removing the banner? It seems the remedy would be against the pricipal or school board, not the school itself.

    • Tom

      That tarpaulin set-up does indeed have a distinctly temporary look.  It would probably also have been less work, and looked a whole lot neater, if they’d simply painted over the top to match the wall around it – but we can all probably guess why they didn’t just do that.  Evidently they couldn’t even bring themselves to cover the thing up entirely, and left as much sticking out at the top as they could without revealing the text – perhaps to remind everyone in the know that it’s actually still there.

      Petulant children, when you make them do something they don’t really want to, sometimes do the absolute minimum and deliberately make a complete pig’s-ear of even that, then act as if the unacceptability of the result were entirely your fault for asking.  I’m beginning to suspect that whoever did this did it with all the wilful incompetence they could muster.

      It’s the wrong shape, wrinkled, off-centre, leaves a bit sticking out, is more complex than it needs to be (just paint the damn thing – surely a sensible school keeps a reserve of wall-coloured paint as a matter of course?), it isn’t even close to an appropriate colour and, last but not least, it’s debatable whether it even complies with the instruction to remove the mural.  Technically, painting over it wouldn’t remove it either, but it would have all the appearance of there being nothing there; if necessary, stripping before painting would solve that problem entirely.  Covering it with a butt-ugly tarpaulin doesn’t give this appearance; if anything, it draws even more attention to that spot.

  • Anonymous

    Somehow I don’t think this banner will go away. I assume some religious folks may want it so they can display it and use it for fundraising purposes. 

    • Rich Wilson

      I would consider that a win.  I’ve seen suggestions that homes in the area put big displays on their lawns.  And for my money, that would just make the point that school private property.

  • Anonymous

    Wouldn’t it have been easier to just take it down?
    They could even do something good with it like auction it off to a religious person with too much money and buy textbooks with the proceeds.

    • Tom

      Unfortunately, it’s painted on.

      • Anonymous

        Shame. oh well, one bucket of paint will fix that.

      • Anonymous

        I thought the court documents stated that it was a banner that had been hung there, and then the edges had been painted over basically joing the banner with the wall, basically the same way an old window becomes attached to the wall when you aren’t careful painting.

        Don’t neglect to notice though,they still haven’t removed the banner, they’ve just covered it up.

  • TiltedHorizon

    You know… after reading the banner it would seem their prayer was indirectly answered, they have been forced to “grow mentally and morally”, forced to be “kind and helpful”,  forced to be “honest” with themselves and others, and have been taught that the value of “true” friendship means committing to ‘equality’, ‘neutrality’ and ‘compromise’.

    Time will tell if they actual learn the true meaning of the sentiments held in the banner.

  • http://twitter.com/PeteHullah Peter Hullah

    If they just got rid of the title, the “Heavenly Father” and the “Amen”, changed “Grant us” to “May we have”, and “Help us, always, to” to “May we always”, there’d be absolutely nothing wrong with it as a statement of objectives for a school, its teachers and its pupils.

    The sentiment’s good, just get rid of the supernatural!

    • Anonymous

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure something like this was suggested but they refused to change it.

      • Jay

        This is correct.  They refused to budge an inch, which was how it ended up going to court.  

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/DJRVGKGG36KNLNMZAVT4EXOF3M Ed-words

      Right. No need to get rid of the whole banner.

  • medussa

    I am still astounded at how much they defended the display, since it’s obvious they never took the time to read it, or ever felt bound by it… “be kind and helpful to our classmates”, “to be honest with ourselves”, and the biggest irony about the good sport bit.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Gould/1216314893 Jeremy Gould

    Are they planning to appeal the decision? I thought they were supposed to take it down, not cover it up.

  • BdrLen

    I would chip in but I think that this intelligent articulate young lady is going to have an easy enough time getting a good post secondary education. She seems to be able to accomplish what she sets her mind to. I’ll save my money for my own 5 children.

  • Anonymous

    Covering it seems more like a statement of protest than compliance with the judge’s order.  It seems similar to those nuts who walk around with tape over their mouths to protest abortions.  The covering of the banner seem to serve a similar purpose to say…’look at what those nasty people discriminating and suppressing on our wholesome xian values made us do.’

    • Rich Wilson

      If that becomes a permanent solution, sure.  But I suspect it was an “Oh Shit, we have to do something NOW” and I’m fine the eventual removal done correctly, not just slapping on a layer of paint. And perhaps the mural replaced with a school motto or guiding principles that include everyone.  And if someone wants to cut it out and put it on their lawn, all the power too them.

      • Anonymous

        Well, it’s very hard to be charitble about their motivations after reading so many vile comments and threats directed toward Ms. Ahlquist.

  • Anonymous

    Meanwhile there is a giant 40ft menorah on the White House Lawn, complete with a full celebration with the US military and all kinds of local, state and federal officials in attendence and there is not one peep out of the atheist community.

    You are all hypocrites in my book.

    • Rich Wilson

      Citation please?  I see a menorah inside the Whitehorse, and a Christmas tree.  If the school wanted to have a bunch of banners representing different philosophies and religions that probably would have passed the Lemon test.  A banner that represents the single school prayer does not.

      For that matter, the post office doesn’t work on Sunday, and nobody cares.  Most of the days of the week are named after various Pagan gods, and nobody cares.

      • Anonymous
        • Rich Wilson

          Like I said:

           I see a menorah inside the Whitehorse, and a Christmas tree.  

          http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/25/white-house-christmas-tree-arrives 

          So you’re just bothered by the menorah, and not the Christmas tree?  Hey, most of us on this blog would also like to return our motto to E pluribus unum and the pledge to its original form.  I’m guessing you support that?

          • Anonymous

            Why do you assume that the menorah bothers me?

            I never said that.

            I said that you snivelling seperation of church and state kooks bother me because not one you or your leaders address the issue of Synagogue and State and why that is legal and constitutional.

            As long as you and your leaders pick on little schools in the middle of nowhere using brainless little provacatuers like Jessica Ahlquist and ignore the very obvious Synagogue and State, you will be called out as the hypocrites that you are

            • Rich Wilson

              Ah yes, because there are SO many cases of Synagogue and State, and even more of Mosque and State, but we pick on the poor oppressed Christians.  We’ve heard this whine before.  You call it hypocritical.  We call it Christian Privilege.

    • Tom

      Apparently one is not allowed to complain about one thing at a time; must we compile a single coordinated press release simultaneously detailing everything that we ever wish to see changed, or else never complain about anything at all?

      For future reference, you should also be aware that hypocrisy is not a logical fallacy.  It may make someone seem like a jerk (and I don’t think even that applies in this case), but it doesn’t make them wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, how DARE Ms. Alquist address an issue that DIRECTLY affects her DAILY life!  What a hypocrite! (/s–if it’s not obvious to all).

      • Rentalqueen2003

        A banner tucked away near the school auditorium affects her daily life? In what way? Now that is a joke. This was done for attention. Now that she has it she is surprized that some is negative? A former student wrote it 50 years ago. Now that persons creation will be destroyed because she didn’t like it being there…. Someone put her up to it. No way did this 16 year old care about it being there.

  • Nude0007

    A lot of kids are lambasting her via social network. I hope most of it is just talk. Somebody needs to have a talk with these kids. What she did was right. Letting these kids think that she was some evil bitch throwing her weight around, the leaders in the community need to make sure they understand that the school was clearly in the wrong.
    It bothers me that the prayer is just covered up and not actually removed. I hope they are planning to have it taken off the wall.

    • Rentalqueen2003

      I agree bullying or threats are an incorrect response to what has occurred. It would have been better if the students were allowed to rally or write about it in the school paper…. They were not allowed to do anything. It seems they were stifled. Jessica is antagonizing them with her attitude and that needs to be addressed. Yes she “won”. Unfortunately she is a poor winner. Maybe she should have read the banner that offended her so much.

  • ProchoiceWoman

    Looks much better!

  • Fraterla93

     Compelling story.  I will definitely chip in.

  • Geraard Spergen

    Think Rachel Maddow would run this story?  Could be the best t hing of the week.

  • Amceleste

    why do u have a scholarship going on for her is she poor and this is how she is going to go to college.  And what ever she gets she deserves.  Thats my school she don’t like it go to east or be home schooled and i wounldn’t give u a penny for her

    • http://www.facebook.com/ben100 Ben Sweatervest Blanchard

      Well, It seems a LOT of people are willing to give there pennies…. I know I chipped in for her education, because she did something amazing and courageous….. 

  • Anonymous

    That banner should still be up, you don’t look at it everyday, its in the auditorium, secondly the money wasted on this case was what put cps into MORE debt, I’m not saying I’m a religious nut, at the same time there was no need to waste more money on something that you can just look away from your there for what 4 years?  I’m sure she’s not the only atheist in our school but as a student this is gone on to far just so her father could make a quick buck on her case. That is whats WRONG! Now shes questioning going to La Salle? are you kidding me? 

  • Anonymous

    oh yeah remove my comment, is that part of the #SOPA get a grip..

  • http://twitter.com/emilyhasbooks Emily

    That temporary solution is tacky, at best, and still leaves the religious symbols showing.

    I have my own proposal for a new banner at Cranston: http://emilyhasbooks.com/intellectual-dishonesty

  • Mysticmoonlight11

    If my people, which are called by my name,
    shall humble themselves, and pray and seek
    my face, and turn from their wicked ways; 
    then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive
    their sins, and will heal their land. 
    2 Chronicles 7:14

  • Melindaanna1

    hmm we talked about this in my world history class today and i had an idea. what if they kept the banner up BUT put another banner up with a statement about atheism. And maybe another about other religions. do you think that would work?

  • Rednellac57

    Just another example of getting God out of our lives, soceity, and the world in general.
    IT’S the ME way of life.  God, parents, police, the government, anybody CANT TELL ME WHAT TO DO, BELIEVE , or think or act.  A  Godless society is a law-less society.
    And just look around, check out the fruits of our Godless world…


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