Lawsuit Forces RI High School To Cover Up Prayer Banner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (CBS/AP) — A prayer banner that has been on display at a Rhode Island public high school for 49 years is being covered up after a federal judge ordered it be removed.

Attorney Joseph Cavanagh Jr. said Thursday that officials are not removing it from the auditorium at Cranston High School West right away in the event the decision is appealed, and possibly reversed.

A judge on Wednesday ordered the prayer banner’s immediate removal.

The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit over the banner last year on behalf of 16-year-old student Jessica Ahlquist, who describes herself as an atheist.

“I’m an Atheist, and I don’t believe in the Heavenly Father, so I shouldn’t have to look at it,” ” Ahlquist said. “Our country was founded as a secular state…that means separation of church and state…and schools.”

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields reports

The banner was a gift from the class of 1964.

It begins with, “Our Heavenly Father…” and asks students to be good scholars and community leaders.

The school argued that the banner was part of the history of the school.

The city’s mayor agrees.

“That banner has been up there for many years,” Mayor Allan Fung said. “It’s part of the school.”

School Committee members say they plan to discuss whether to appeal the decision at their next meeting on Tuesday. Cavanagh said the banner will be taken down if the board decides against appealing the decision.

WBZ-TV’s Bill Shields contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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