Jessica Ahlquist’s High School Now Has a New (Secular) Mural

Nearly two years after Jessica Ahlquist fought — and won — a legal battle against her high school over a religious mural, Cranston High School West has finally found a suitable replacement.

Just as a reminder, this is the mural that was in the auditorium for nearly 50 years:

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.

Amen.

Jessica sued the school (with the help of the ACLU) in April of 2011. This was a constitutional violation with its endorsement of religion and the debate over how to handle the mural divided the community. The school board eventually decided they would put up a fight, a decision that ultimately led to them owing the ACLU $173,000 in legal fees. The pushback and threats from other students also led to Jessica not returning back to Cranston for her senior year.

Yesterday, the Class of 1963 — the group that gifted the school with the original religious mural — gave the school a new one as part of a celebration of their 50-year reunion (as well as another matching banner with the “School Creed”). This one, thankfully, is secular and constitutional:

The new mural (Steve Szydlowski – The Providence Journal)

The mural reads FALCONS (the school mascot) vertically down as an acronym, with each letter representing lessons students should internalize:

Foster an atmosphere of good will and respect

Affirm our efforts to conduct ourselves with honor

Learn from our achievements and mistakes

Choose wisely the paths taken and friends made

Overcome prejudice and embrace diversity

Nurture ourselves, families, friends and communities

Strive for excellence in all our future endeavors

No mention of “Our Heavenly Father.” No mention of the word “Amen.” No reason for another lawsuit.

On Saturday afternoon, before an invitation-only ceremony at the school to unveil the new mural, representatives of the class said the new gift was a way of moving on from the conflict stirred up by the old one, which drew national media coverage.

“The community is healed,” said Janice Bertino. “There is no more controversy.”

80 people were invited to the unveiling ceremony.

Jessica wasn’t on the list.


But from now on, thanks to her bravery, whenever students look at the new mural in the auditorium, they’ll be able to take away valuable life lessons… instead of the school’s official position on the nature of God.

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.


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