On Attending a School Committee Meeting Addressing Whether to Appeal a Court Decision to Remove a Prayer Banner

On Attending a School Committee Meeting Addressing Whether to Appeal a Court Decision to Remove a Prayer Banner February 17, 2012

Yesterday I went with Jan and a fair number of folk from First Unitarian to the Cranston School Committee meeting in a suburban Providence town, where they were going to decide whether to appeal a recent court ruling that the prayer banner at the Cranston High School West had to come down. As it was titled “School Prayer,” began with “Our Heavenly Father” and ended with “Amen,” from where I stood it looked a pretty open and shut case.

The sixteen year old who objected and on whose behalf the ACLU went to court and won had been subjected to various outrages since registering her complaint, including public shaming from local officials for rocking the social boat, one, for instance, calling her “a wicked little thing.”

Several of her family were members of our congregation.

Most of us from church were offended at how she’d been treated. As one of us said the subject was not a hill we’d probably have picked to fight on, ourselves, but bottom line, the kid was right. And she was in fact being persecuted for standing up for her rights as a minority citizen, she said she was an atheist, in a pubic venue who should not have to be subjected to the assumptions the majority were normative, or, more baldly, normal. With all that follows that. And, so, there we were.

The outcome was probably telegraphed by the attorney for the school who laid it out fairly clearly. If, he noted, this is a prayer case, well, that’s settled law. If, however, it turns on a display case, well, then they had a shot. He took it. The lower court didn’t buy it. He said the school district, already reeling from cost cutting, was going to be liable for a lot of money just for going that far. Precisely how much wasn’t clear, but the court had already assessed costs at a hundred, seventy five thousand dollars. He said probably it would be less. But, he thought, It might come to half a million dollars to go to the supreme court, should they decide to hear it, and should they lose.

There had been a lot of pot stirring going up to this meeting, including robocalls trying to whip up outrage at the secular take over of the schools.

I figure at the peak, maybe a thousand people showed up. Media counts ranged from six hundred to seven hundred.

Those who wanted appeal were well organized. In addition to the robocalls, they had little paper bibs brandishing the single word “appeal,” which well over half those present ended up wearing. Lots of people trying to organize them. A local crazy guy who appears at anything touching on social issues, was wandering around whispering and muttering. The chair warned him once that he needed to not disrupt or would be escorted out of the hall. Disruption was stopped pretty much before it began…

The previous meeting was by all accounts a circus. This was well run. Lots of cops with very obvious guns on their hips, standing around.

People were, by and large, civil.

There were some attempts at rousing the crowd, and I personally felt a small shiver of fear when some young men, mostly wearing the appeal bibs stood, pumping their fists in the air, and shouting USA, USA. It was pretty obvious their USA had no room for civil libertarians, and, it sure seemed to me, me…

Maybe my sense of anxiety at their aggression was just, me, but I swear, I felt I could see these young men in brown shirts.

Still, again, mostly it was civil enough.

There were attempts at generosity on the part of many.

Still, my discomfort was with what felt to me to be a strong current of feeling repeated over and over by speakers that the country was disintegrating, and the problem came from people who wanted to remove God from the public forum. The ACLU was singled out for particular venom by several speakers. For them the issues of prayer or display wasn’t the issue. It was prayer. It was how they felt under assault. It was their anger at how things were and how things seem to be going.

There were a lot of people who wanted things the way they used to be. And they said it. Over and over.

I thought about that used to be, and felt that shiver, again…

Well, when all was said and done the committee took its vote and five to two voted not to appeal.

Most said it was because of the cost.

Something nasty continues to simmer…

And, I feel some fear for the Republic…

As well as some hope…

Some hope…

"I'm sorry to begin with an act of self-advertisement, but everything I want to say ..."

Frithjof Schoun & Traditionalism
"I'm sorry to begin with an act of self-advertisement, but everything I want to say ..."

Frithjof Schoun & Traditionalism
"this site will not unsubscribe me so i'm getting back MY way. HAHAHAHAHA! https://uploads.disquscdn.c..."

Water and Light Soaking into the ..."
"i KNOW that ALL religions are for people that were indoctrinated as children and still ..."

Water and Light Soaking into the ..."

Browse Our Archives

Close Ad