RI School Board Votes to End Prayer Banner Battle

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A prayer banner that has hung in a Rhode Island high school auditorium since 1963 is coming down.

A federal judge ruled in January that the prayer banner at Cranston High School West is unconstitutional. He ordered to have it removed.

Now the school district has decided not to appeal the ruling.

The trouble began with a lawsuit filed on behalf of 16-year-old atheist Jessica Ahlquist, a student at Cranston West.

Ahlquist argued that the banner, a gift from the school's first graduating class in 1963, showed the words "Heavenly Father" and "Amen," words she said didn't belong in a public school.

At a contentious meeting Thursday, many Cranston residents made it clear they wanted the school to appeal the ruling.
"We need to show them that we can fight for what they believe in, no matter what it takes," one Cranston resident said.

"We have to appeal for the students of Cranston High School West," another resident said. "And we have to appeal for the sake of our own community. God bless you all."

But others wanted the school to avoid a costly court fight.

"Now is the time to heal and to improve our school system and not to spend large sums of money going to the Supreme Court," one said one resident, who opposes appealing the prayer banner ruling.
"You are hurting our children and our community if you allocate precious resources, including time and money, which will be unavailable for our students' needs to fight a losing battle based on your emotion," one woman said.

In the end, the board voted 5-2 not to appeal. But some have argued that students should take the school to court to have the banner reinstated.

For now, the banner remains covered and on the school wall.

Originally published on Friday, February 17th.

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John Waage

John Waage

CBN News Sr. Editor

John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.