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***Update***: The Facebook link mentioned below has been fixed.

A couple of months ago, Cranston High School West in Rhode Island was making news because of a certain 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.


The banner had been up for over 50 years, and people were finally starting to complain about it. At the time, the school board voted to “research the issue further.”

That time has come and passed. The school board has made a decision.

And it’s the wrong one:

After more than two hours of impassioned discussion, the School Committee voted Monday night, in a special meeting, to keep and potentially defend the prayer in court.

The vote also applies to a second banner at Hugh B. Bain Middle School.

The vote was 4 to 3. School Committee members Andrea M. Iannazzi, Frank S. Lombardi, Paula McFarland and Michael A. Traficante voted in favor. Voting against were Stephanie A. Culhane, Janice Ruggieri and Steven Bloom.

Congratulations, Cranston. Your school board just voted to throw away thousands of dollars in litigation because they can’t keep their religion to themselves.

Who needs teachers, music, sports, or a K-6 honors program when you want to cram god down students’ throats?

“I say we fight the good fight,” said Peter Paolella, a Cranston High School West graduate whose children attend the city’s public schools. He urged the School Committee to keep a prayer at Cranston West, even if that meant going to court. “America needs a hero. Let’s be the hero.”

A real hero would be looking out for the children, not the local ministers.

As JT Eberhard points out:

What the school board is doing is illegal, no question. They are not standing on principle unless that principle is insisting that they are above the law, which is a terrible example to set for the students in their charge. Responsible adult citizens who disagree with our laws should work through the system to change them legally instead of violating them. If everyone got to pick and choose which laws to disregard we would be well on the road to anarchy.

Not only has the committee conveyed that ‘lesson’, they seem to be sharply implying that students cannot pray unless commanded to do so. I would think the religious denizens of Cranston would be livid about that position, but none of them seem to be.

Despite all this chaos, sophomore student Jessica Ahlquist has been a force for reason. She started a Facebook group called “Help us remove that prayer from Cranston West High School” and has been incredibly articulate about why the banner should come down:

… the prayer, critics say, stands in direct violation of the country’s laws.

Cranston West sophomore Jessica Ahlquist said, “In America, we have the right to believe or not to believe.”

“This prayer endorses religion. It endorses a specific religion,” said Ahlquist, who is an atheist. The prayer, she says, “is discriminating against us.”

For “a majority to say that you can take away a minority right, it’s wrong,” Ahlquist said. “It’s also un-American.”

Bravo. Somehow, she’s one of the few people in that school who know the laws in this country.

The ACLU in Rhode Island is going to sue. The law is on their side, so this should be entertaining to watch. It’s too bad the students are going to suffer because of the school board’s irresponsible decision.

(via Atheism Resource)