On Thursday, the Cranston School District Will Decide Whether or Not to Appeal Judge’s Ruling

Because a judge ruled that the Cranston High School West prayer banner was a Constitutional violation, it is currently covered up, waiting to be removed:

On Thursday night, there is a committee meeting at Cranston High School East during which it will be decided whether or not the district will appeal the judge’s ruling.

If the committee members were smart, they would just accept the ruling and take the banner down.

But this committee isn’t known for being very rational…

If you’re in the area, please consider attending and showing your support. Not only will Jessica Ahlquist be there, Dr. Ellery Schempp (whose lawsuit helped take mandatory prayers out of public schools) will join her, as will the pro-church/state separation Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

The fireworks begin at 6:00p.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

    I am leaving for Rhode Island tomorrow to go to this meeting. I hope there will be many of us from the boards at the meeting.

    This is more than just the brave young woman at this point. This is now becoming a case the nation is looking at through a microscope. Get to this meeting if you can!

    • TiltedHorizon

      Extra police are on order, the critics are coming in force, it is expected to be a circus. Can I send a case of popcorn since I can’t be there myself? 

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

        I am usually the one stirring the pot, and I like dark humor, but I think we need to be on our best behavior at this meeting! :)

        It should not be a circus and we need to represent ourselves as smart, solid, assertive but polite.

        Now is the time to keep our side of the street clean and simply make our words heard, not create a circus!

        • http://twitter.com/RantBot5000 RantBot Grikmeer

           Monty Python vs. the Faithful in the The Life of Brian release controversy. The Pythons won because they were being mature and trying to have a civilised debate while the bishop and the devout Christian bayed like mad dogs…

        • TiltedHorizon

          ….so light on butter and hold the salt?

          Sorry, was not an attempt to stir the pot, was simply building on the media adjective of ‘circus’ used by Fox news to describe this meeting.

    • Supz

      I wish I could be there (on west coast). I would get a bunch of friends to dress up in old-time clothes and bring  signs protesting something backwards thinking people used to protest in ye old days. Maybe something about women voting, or the ownership of slaves…something like that to try and point out that people need to learn to live in 2012.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Thanks.

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

    It’s actually covered under a sheet of plywood at this time, which will be painted to match the wall behind it if the school should appeal.  Otherwise, down the thing comes in furtherance of the judge’s order.

    I’m betting on non-appeal, with screams of outrage and threats of recall.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

      I think you are onto something with your prediction. I suspect it will be a call for non-appeal, but there will be rioting and screaming as a result.

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

        Remember, the original vote to go to trial rather than be sensible was 4-3.  Only one vote has to flip.

  • Ggsillars

    Is it too much to hope that the additional expense of an appeal (and inevitable loss) in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit will deter them from further folly?

    • Anonymous

      probably

  • Pluto Animus

     Hmm, I thought the meeting was at 5pm….

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

      Providence Journal says 6 pm, Cranston EAST.

  • Johnk

    I just read the banner for the first time, and I’m amazed that anyone would be offended by its contents.
    The banner is very positive and speaks to solid values that most people want to live by.

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

      And if it weren’t a Christian prayer, it’d still be visible. 

      Also, if anyone actually lived by it, Jessica wouldn’t have gone through even a fraction of the crap she’s had to wade through.

      And if wishes were horses, rides would be free.

    • Ab

      I see your Christian Privlege is showing. I understand it can be very difficult to put yourself in another’s shoes. That’s ok though. Keep at it, you’ll get it!

      • Johnk

        No privelege at all. Just pointing out that it expresses great sentiments. And it’s universal in spirit, so anyone who believes in God should not feel alienated by it. (Privelege comes and goes, anyway – 2000 years ago we were playing with lions for the entertainment of the Romans).

        belief workd both ways Ab. It sounds like you have a strong belief that the sign is wrong, and you want it taken down. I believe the opposite. No privelege, just opinion. If you ever walked in my shoes you would realize that. Keep at it, you’ll get it eventually.

        • Anonymous

          Your beliefs aren’t relevant here, nor are those of the bigoted Xtians in Cranston, or even mine or Miss Ahlquist’s. The FACT that is relevant here is that public schools can’t endorse religion.

    • The Captain

      The very first words are “Our Heavenly Father”. If you can’t see how right from the start the banner declares Jews, Atheist, Muslims and any other non-christian child attending that school as not as important as the christian ones then you are obviously too self-centered to see how you are the problem.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

        actually the very first words are “SCHOOL PRAYER” (capslock even on a mural? oh you silly Christians).

        • The Captain

          Who counts the titles :)

      • Johnk

        Jews are fine with the term “Heavenly Father”, and so are some Muslims that I know. Hindu friends that I asked had the attitude, “Why not – it’s another way of addressing God.”

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

           Heavenly Father is a reference to the Trinity, and that is an explicitly Christian doctrine.  That fact that your particular friends are okay with it is immaterial.

          • Anonymous

            I suppose it could apply to Odin as well, Or perhaps Zeus?

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

               I dunno.  I think a reference to Zeus would read “Olympian Father” not “Heavenly Father”

              (Would Odin be Valhallian Father or would he be Asgardian Father?)

              • Anonymous

                Usually he goes by Allfather, but I’m allowing for some loose translation here.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, the sentiment is nice. And it would still be the same with all the religious nonsense removed from it.

      But the reactions of the local yokels clearly shows that they don’t care one iota about the actual content, much less live by it.

    • ReginaldJooald

      Would you oppose any of these?

      Our Beloved Lucifer,Teach us the value of friendship
      Amen

      Oh Holy Allah,
      May we possess good sportsmanship
      Amen

      Please, Goddess, help us be better people

      • Johnk

        the first one is just silly.

        If I were attending a high school in a traditionally Muslim country and there was an old banner on the wall that began, “Oh Holy Allah,” with those same sentiments below it, I would not call a lawyer!

        • Piet Puk

          Why is the fist one silly?

        • Marty

          Yes, because there are so many traditionally Muslim countries with a secular constitution and separation of church and state.

    • Anonymous

      Nobody’s offended by the contents. It’s the fact that it’s explicitly Xtian in a publicly-funded school. It’s been established very, very clearly that this is unconstitutional.
      The response of local Xtians has demonstrated that it’s also been largely ignored until Miss Ahlquist spoke out about it. The crazed, hateful & bigoted remarks coming from them would almost be amusing if they didn’t include credible threats of violence, rape & murder.

      • Johnk

        I just re read the prayer a few more times. Why do you say it’s a “explicitly” a Christian prayer? I’m sure it was placed there by Christians, but the entire thing works for virtually every person who believes in God. It never mentions Jesus. I know Hindus who would be 100% fine with this. I think it may only offend atheists.

        • Anonymous

          Really? I’m pretty sure that Hindus don’t open their prayers with “Our Heavenly Father,” or close them with “Amen.”
          Also, you keep getting “offended” confused with “calling something out as illegal.”
          I’m not offended the least by the prayer itself. If people would actually take that message to heart, things would be alot better. The point is that it’s clearly illegal for a public agency to promote religion. There are very good reasons for this with hundreds of years of historical examples of why it’s a really, REALLY bad idea to have government supporting religion. 

          • Johnk

            I would not say that it’s “clearly illegal.” All that the constitution says is that, “Congress shall MAKE NO LAW respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free excercise thereof…”

            This has been debated a lot over the years, and has been interpreted to mean different things. So while it is generally accepted to be “illegal” one can not describe it as “Clearly illegal.” 

            I would define it as free excersise of religion.

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

               Your right to free exercise of religion does not include the privilege of paying for it with public money.  Public schools are funded by taxes.  You do not have a right to tax me to pay for your religious expression.

            • Anonymous

              Way to ignore decades of precedent. It’s been decided over & over in courts that yes, pushing religion in public schools is clearly illegal. That’s why it’s so obvious to everyone outside of Cranston that they’ll lose this case, and badly. Here is another case of your willful ignorance. You might define it as free exercise of religion, but the courts, time & again, have not.

              • Johnk

                I think you’ll agree that living one’s life based on “decades of precedent” is not the right way to go. Women voted, slavery was abolished, and children no longer work in factories because thinking people rejected “decades of precedent.” It is every human’s responsibility to strive for what they believe is right, not to just go along with the status quo. (please don’t use “the courts” as some sort of guardians of higher thought – it was the courts that supported some of the very things I listed above).

                • Anonymous

                  Wow, you have me shaking my head. Did I say anything about living your life by court precedent? No, I was explaining why school prayers are clearly illegal. Your ham-fisted attempts to swap subjects in mid-dialogue are classic troll behavior. Either up your game and participate in the discussion honestly or go away please.

                • Johnk

                  Artor, your main participation with me is to insult me. You specifically said, “Way to ignore decades of precedent…” and “…it’s been specifically decided in courts…”
                  I’m not swapping anything at all. I’m responding specifically to your assertation that precedent = right. You can’t just get aggravated that I’m not communicating in the precise way that you would like me to. And for the record, dissagreement does not make someone a troll.

                • Anonymous

                  And yet again, you mis-state my position.  
                  “I’m responding specifically to your assertation that precedent = right.
                  Except that’s not my assertion. I was pointing out that school prayer is  “clearly illegal,” which you disputed. Why would I not return insult (yours, in your twisting of my words) with mine? (my expression of disdain for your dishonest arguments)

                • Johnk

                  However you twist your words, I still disagree that legal precedence is the final word on a social debate. 

                • Anonymous

                  And you still can’tunderstand my point afterI’ve stated it several times. And I’m the one twisting words?

                • Anonymous

                  squashing words is more like it now…

                • Johnk

                  :)

            • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

              Keep in mind Johnk that this isn’t new to us.  You just recently read the prayer, and based just on reading the prayer (as far as I can tell anyway) you’ve come to an opinion.

              Most of us have been responding to the same few basic points over and over again.  Points that the court also addressed.

              The idea that the prayer is harmless non-denominational feel good that everyone should embrace or ignore is not a new argument.  And although you’re entitled to your opinion, obviously most of us disagree, and none of us are likely to change our minds on it.

              The bottom line is that unless/until this is overturned on appeal, the court considers us in the  “the-prayer-severs-no-secular-purpose” camp to be right.

            • http://inmyunbelief.wordpress.com/ TCC

              You might do well to learn about the Fourteenth Amendment and the doctrine of incorporation, johnk. If you knew anything about that, you would know that this is clearly illegal, not just “generally accepted” (which frankly is a distinction without a difference anyway).

              Also, governments don’t exercise religion (cannot because of the Establishment Clause), so that point is entirely irrelevant. Individuals can exercise religion, but they can’t do so as agents of the government.

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

          And what about the people who don’t believe in any gods?  How does the prayer work for them? If it doesn’t work for them, why is that acceptable to you?

          • Johnk

            it’s acceptible to me because I have an open mind and a degree of flexibility, so I’m OK living with other peoples opinions. Not everything that others do, say, or post on signs works for me, but that’s OK.
            Must everything “work” for everyone, all the time? 

            • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

               It’s acceptable to exclude atheists because you have an open mind?  That makes no sense.

              • Piet Puk

                His mind only opens in one direction.

    • Anonymous

      One of the local rabbis at the interfaith press conference related that when she asked some of her congregants who were alumni of the high school, they reported feeling uncomfortable and alienated by the Christian prayer as children. Not offended. Alienated. The government shouldn’t be in the business of making people feel alienated because they don’t happen to worship the same god or in the same manner as the majority. Read your constitution.

      • Anonymous

        they reported feeling uncomfortable and alienated by the Christian prayer as children. Not offended. Alienated. The government shouldn’t be in the business of making people feel alienated because they don’t happen to worship the same god or in the same manner as the majority

        Ibis3, you nailed it, right there.

        The obvious conclusion?  the people outraged by the removal of the prayer do not care if other people feel alienated.  That’s the disappointing truth at the core of this ‘controversy’.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Nobody was offended.  ‘Offense’ isn’t the point.

      • Johnk

        Most posters here seem pretty offended.

        • Anonymous

          There you go again with the reading comprehension fail. The posters here aren’t offended by the school prayer in itself. They are offended by the ignorant, bigoted actions of those who defend the clearly unconstitutional display of Xtian privilege. I assume you’ve read through some of the responses the “loving Xtian” crowd have displayed regarding this controversy. THAT is pretty offensive!

          • Johnk

            Why must your comments be so smarmy? 
            The original offense taken by atheists was most certainly because of the banner itself, not because of the bigoted actions of the crowd. Most of the posts here are angry that the banner is there in the first place. 
            Unless you are saying that it’s the actions of the crowd that are the issue, and if they behaved properly the banner could stay? I don’t think that’s the sentiment here at all. 

            • Anonymous

              I’m losing patience because you keep missing the point, and I’m pretty sure by now it’s deliberate.
              There was no original offense from “the atheists.” Jessica Ahlquist rightly noted that the prayer was illegal, and politely spoke to the school admin. When they declined to correct the matter, she brought suit against them, not because she was offended, but because they were breaking the law. THEN the shitstorm happened, and that’s what’s offensive.
              If the local Xtians had behaved themselves, the banner would still have to go, but they wouldn’t have shown themselves to the country as ignorant, bigoted assholes wallowing in their traditional Xtian privilege. 

              Aaand… I just scanned through the rest of the posts, and your claim that “Most of the posts here are angry that the banner is there in the first place, ” falls pretty flat. How did you come to that conclusion? I think my evaluation of your reading abilities are proven. Thanks for your cooperation.

              • Johnk

                We disagree, especially on how to communicate. Your sign-offs expose you as an unhappy, easily irritated person. Remember, artor, that being condescending does not make you superior, it just makes you hard to be around. 

                • Anonymous

                  LOL! Yes, remember that, Johnk.

                • Piet Puk

                  Funny huh, how these religious folks suddenly mind the tone of the argument, and forget all about the argument itself?

                • Anonymous

                  Yup. Another classic troll behavior.

                • Johnk

                  It’s all connected, puk. Someone’s spirit and attitude communicates volumes about where they are really coming from. (besides, If you read the thread, you’ll see that no argument has been forgotten).

                • Piet Puk

                  And your spirit is a and attitude are very ugly.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          I refer you to the Judge’s decision, both in ‘offence’ and secular nature of the display.  
          http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/files/2012/01/ahlquist_decision_011112.pdf

          When we refer to ‘privilege’ here, we’re talking about the phenomena by which the status quo feels normal to everyone, even those it is adversely affecting.  It’s not that you are getting any special privileges.  It’s that you think a positive prayer that doesn’t explicitly mention Jesus  is the neutral position.  I won’t speak for you on this point, but there are many out there who think that taking the prayer down and leaving a blank wall is somehow anti-religious.  It’s not, it’s neutral.  A display saying “There are no gods” would be ‘anti-religious’.  Nobody is asking for that.

    • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

       On top of the obvious Constitutional infraction, I don’t like the wording: “Grant us [the positive qualities we want to have]”  That implies one should sit passively and hope that those qualities just magically appear, instead of encouraging students to be active participants in their own development.  The treatment Jessica has received from her classmates shows just how well that works.

      • Johnk

        A prayer is not passive, it’s an action. So it definitely does not imply that one should sit passively. If God is real and has the power to impart or help to foster those qualities  (as Christians believe) then from a believer’s perspective it’s not “magical” it’s reality.
        I have no excuse or explaination for the hateful words and actions of her classmates. 

        • http://twitter.com/enuma enuma

          Saying aloud that I wish my house was clean is not the same thing as actively cleaning it. I stand by my original criticism of the wording.

  • http://twitter.com/notlobau John

    It’s a prayer banner and as such has no place in a taxpayer funded public school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I double dog dare them to appeal it. My desire to have the educational budget saved is beginning to be overwhelmed by my desire to watch fundies dig their own grave.

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    You know what we should do? Let’s say they don’t appeal (or they do, and the lose the appeal) – in other words, let’s say they are made to “take it down”.

    We should have a collection, ala something like the Water Truck – where the money would specifically go towards having the prayer removed, mounted and preserved and the wall repaired, with some kind of wording stating that the prayer must be removed off school/state grounds (to a local Cranston church or something?).

    Let’s be honest here: This prayer does mean a lot to many people (however we as atheists feel about it). By offering the means to preserve the prayer, our actions will speak very loudly.

    Am I wrong in thinking this?

    • Marguerite

      It’s a nice thought, but I frankly don’t think the prayer means that much to anyone.  I think the fact that the prayer is IN SCHOOL is all that matters here. They don’t want it in a church– there are probably similar things all over the walls of local churches. Of course it makes sense to have it in a church, but offering to pay to put it there isn’t going to make any of these people happy. They want that prayer to stay on the school wall, and nowhere else.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RZ5VEXJ3IYNGQBHI5APT4DETJI FSq

      We could spend that money better elsewhere.

      • Johnk

        There would not have been one penny spent were it not for the complaints of a few people.

        • Anonymous

          So next time you get in a car accident, don’t report it to the police, because that might mean municipal funds are spent. It’s rape victim’s fault for reporting the crimes against them, thereby driving up costs of law enforcement. We should all just shut up when we see something illegal, because taxes might be spent in response. Is that what you’re trying to say? Because that’s the logical extension of your argument.

          • Johnk

            “Rape victims?” Relax, Artor. Nothing logical about comparing a prayer banner to someone being raped. wow…

            • Anonymous

              Yeah, I thought that would be your response. You still miss the point. I was extending your argument to the extreme to illustrate that you’re full of crap.

              • Johnk

                Are you always such a pleasure to be around? It’s possible to have a sincere give and take – even with those whom you disagree with.

                • Anonymous

                  I have little patience for fools or the willfully ignorant. If I thought you were sincere in your arguments, I’d respond with more respect, but every post you’ve made has been off the mark or fallacious. Almost like you were trolling. Maybe I should just stop feeding you.

                • Johnk

                  honestly I was thinking the same of you, since you are chomping at the bit to be rude, argumentative and arrogant at every turn. I will stop feeding you.

                • Piet Puk

                  But Artor is still the most honest one in this discussion. I’ll choose an honest person above any polite, willfully ignorant person, like yourself, any time.

                • Johnk

                  a difference of opinion is not ignorance, puk. 

                • Piet Puk

                  Deliberatily missing the point is.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          Again, read the judge’s decision I posted in another comment.  The actual cost is not an issue.  The original display was paid for with donated funds.  The issue is that a public tax payer funded institution is endorsing religion.  That they don’t use tax payer funds to do the endorsing is irrelevant.

          If the FFRF donated a display saying “There are no gods” the School would not put it up, nor should they.  They shouldn’t put up ANY signs endorsing ANY religion (or lack thereof).

          (ok, caveat, they can put up multiple signs describing various religions, as long as they’re balanced and not endorsing any or all of them.  Thinks “world religion history week”).

          Edit: oh, and there would not have been a penny spent if the school had just taken it down in the first place like they should have.

        • Piet Puk

          Even less would have been spend if the banner never had been put up.

    • Parse

      Frankly, if the prayer means that much to them, let them raise the funds to preserve it.

  • G Mc

    As much as I don’t want to see the students suffer when their budget is slashed, I honestly want to see the school board appeal the decision.
    First, I would like the inevitable loss to carry more weight with a larger segment of the population as the case law would apply at a higher level.
    Second, and I’m ashamed to admit this, but the cost needs to grow so high that no other district allows the slightest infringement for fear of bankruptcy.


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