Cranston School Will Not Appeal Ruling To Take Down Prayer Banner

By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

CRANSTON, R.I. (CBS) – A huge crowd packed Cranston High School West, angry over a ruling which forced the city to take down a prayer banner that’s been up in the school for decades.

A federal judge already ruled the prayer banner has to be taken down, but in the end, it came down to a battle between faith and money.

Early on it looked like Thursday night’s public hearing was going to go the way of those before it: A rabid shout fest.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports

The crowd was heavily in favor of appealing a federal court’s decision ordering the school district to remove the prayer mural with religious wording.

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.

But once the argument was framed in economic terms, even pro-banner speakers changed their tune.

School officials estimated that an appeal to the 1st Circuit Court in Boston and maybe eventually the Supreme Court could cost the city up to $500,000.

After two hours of public hearings, the Cranston School Committee voted 5-2 against an appeal.

Quietly in the back row the whole time sat Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old high school junior who first challenged the banner’s constitutionality. Ahlquist has been the target of online threats and was briefly escorted by police while at school.

“I’m really pleased with the decision,” Ahlquist said after the vote. “It’s obviously the decision I wanted the School Committee to make and I’m thrilled.”

More from Jim Armstrong
  • Jeremy

    How dare she want this country to follow it’s own rules and guidelines! How evil, right? Riiiiiight.

    • Gabe

      The Constitution only says that:

      “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      I wonder how this means that a school has to take down banners with religious symbols on it, which the majority of that community supports just because one person, or a group of people don’t agree.

      Does the majority have to suffer to accommodate the few? For those who say that religion should be practiced in the privacy of your own home, church or out of the public eye, is in fact trying to overturn the Constitutional amendment. For in order to make it legal to only practice your faith in those areas, is to pass laws that are “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

      No one says that an Atheist can’t practice their non faith in public, because this is a free society and everyone has the right to free speech. If you were to take this into its extreme, we would have to do away with that entire amendment and no one would be able to say anything in public at all, because any expression will be seen as some sort of belief, and therefore a separation of church and state, and intolerable. Or are Atheists only happy with suppressing the rights of freedom of expression of others who do not share their own belief system?

      I am against the suppression of Atheist speech, just as much as I am against the suppression of any other religious or non religious organization and I am a Christian. But as an American, we should all be allowed to profess and express our beliefs as we choose, within reason.

      If a community wants to express their common held tradition and belief, they should be allowed to without congress or any other government dictating that they can’t. This is a free country. If you do not share the common belief of that community, you don’t have to. And if you can’t stand it that everyone else doesn’t share your beliefs, you are welcome to move to a place that does share your views. But who gives you the right to force others to stop expressing their own system of beliefs, or traditions, just because it makes you uncomfortable? Doesn’t sound like freedom of anything if you ask me.

    • tsalnew

      Gabe – would you objective if instead of removing the subject banner one were added that said “There is No God”

    • Kim Janes

      Gabe, this isn’t “a community” expressing a commonly held belief–it’s the government, which is why it’s wrong. The school (a government institution) cannot display a religious banner, which is tantamount to raising one religion above all others.

      Taking it down doesn’t violate anyone’s religious liberty–people are free to practice their religion in public or in private as long as their actions don’t infringe on the rights of others. The students are still allowed to pray in school if they want, but the school is NOT allowed to lead the prayer. That is the distinction that those who disagree with the original ruling don’t understand.

      It’s baffling to me that people seem to think that violations of the Constitution are OK as long as the majority of people are in agreement with the violation. The Constitution doesn’t exist to protect the majority of people from the minority–marshall law would take care of that. The Constitution exists to protect the rights and freedoms of EVERYONE, including those of minority opinions, beliefs, race, gender, gender identity, etc.

      When something that is OK for one religion (i.e. the display of a banner in school) wouldn’t be OK for any other religion, it’s discriminatory. That’s why the establishment clause exists.

    • Willow

      Kim James….Great explanation!

  • minh

    Despicable? Depends on your point of view. Courageous? Absolutely. Religious messages in public institutions serving all walks of life are just anachronistic.

    • Seriously

      It didn’t come down to money, it came down to it costing money to try to ignore the constitution, …let’s be honest here.

    • gramps

      Is religion divisive?

      Bet your ‘ash’ it is!

      Which is why it should be kept private & those inclined to do so, go where you wish on Saturday & Sunday……The my god is better than yours, especially those on a ‘magic carpet ride, has been & will prove to be the downfall of the ‘Planet’!


      • tsalnew

        gramps with all due respect – religion is not divisive – the divisiveness is created by man all on his own.

      • Willow

        And, so is politics as well as many other things.

    • montana824

      The next thing we’ll see are Catholic idols in the school hallways. We’ll have to kneel before going into the cafeteria. What nonsense.


    This despicable little atheist fought to protect your freedom of religion. You should really be less of a sore loser like the Cranston prayer banner says.

    • P

      No she didn’t,in this case the majority lost. I don’t want her Godless little hands fighting for me. I never met a 16 year old atheist I liked.

      • Jesus

        Wow. What ignorance.

        America is a constitutional democracy, a government under law in which coalition and majority rule is balanced by minority and individual rights.

        Get educated, dope.

      • andy

        Jesus: America is constitutional republic. You described a republic.

  • villefort

    you mean brave human being

    • Jean

      Funny, I’ve been dealt a LOT of foxholes in my life, and I’m just as strong an atheist, if not stronger, for those experiences. Most atheists can say the same.

      I also know many atheists who were in literal foxholes- in WWII, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some didn’t start as atheists, but became atheist in those foxholes.

    • P

      No,I mean despicable little atheist. No atheists in foxholes,wait til life deals her a foxhole.

  • freedomfromreligion

    Thank You for keeping it real Jessica Ahlquist !!!

  • TUCO72

    Just another sign of what this country is becoming with POS President.

    • Jesus

      You talking about George Washington?

      Those were the guys who got that whole US Constitution and Bill of Rights thing started. Go figure.

      • Snuggie

        Yes, they were. However they based the constitution on Christainity! Read it and see for yourself. I believe we need to get back to our roots….

  • Doc

    I will be praying for her … that one day she sees the light and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord & Savior. Both he and our Lady have helped me out on many occasions. One only needs to have faith.

    • gramps

      “I’d rather be lucky….than good”

      Better than ‘fairy tales’!


    • Jesus

      Learn in school. Pray in church. Simple.

      • Snuggie

        Oh no, learn in school, and prayer about everythin and everywhere

    • Dave_D

      Pray for her all you want. But, please, do it quietly.

      At least you are better than a lot of the cowards who were threatening her. Imagine that, threatening a sixteen year old girl. I wonder what your Lady would say about that.

    • freethought

      Nothing fails like prayer. -Annie Laurie Gaylor

      • Almir

        Please Gifted Music School Spring Gala Benefit ConcertLocation: Libby Gardner Hall on the University of Utah Campus7 p.m. Tuesday, March 29, 2011Tickets and more information: 801-686-8838

      • Willow

        I beg to differ. :)

  • Mark

    First of all, calling Jessica Ahlquist a “brave human being” is a bit ridiculous I mean it wasnt like she was Rosa Parks or anything like that. Secondly, I don’t really know what the contents that were on the Prayer Banner so I mean this could be just over a little thing that has gotten overblown (like the “under God in the Pledge of Allegiance) or if it was justifiable for its removal which I agree with if the contents meaning is religous heavy. Church and State should be kept seperately but if its something little like…. ‘May the road guide you to happiness”…or something of that nature I mean who cares.

    • freethought

      “One nation, Indivisible” unites.

      “Under God” divides. Get it?

      That’s probably the reason that “Under God” was not in the original Pledge of allegiance. (Or E. Pluribus Unum was our national motto.) How would you like it if someone distorted your bible? Oh wait, wahtever am I saying???

  • Jesus

    Religion OUT of schools and into the CHURCH!

    Why is it so hard for Republicans to understand that?

    • Willow

      Last I knew, Jesus and His followers were the church. A building is only the place some people go to worship, but people (believers) are the church. If you are going to use His name, please be sure your facts are correct.

    • P

      Do you go to atheists meetings? I know of 2 and they’re both despicable as I suspect you are. This country gets better and better,doesn’t it?

  • massman

    Intelligence 1, Religion 0. Awesome job by Ms. Ahlquist and the ACLU. Keep religion out of schools.

  • Dave_D

    Good for her!

    Sounds like she paid attention in her civics classes.

  • Charles

    Beautiful. Jessica Ahlquist, your heart make be young, but it has exhibited strength beyond its years that we should all draw inspiration from. Congratulations for standing up for what’s right and what’s fair.

    I respect you, and I’m a Catholic. I do not want my tax dollars or any municipal property I own a share of to be used to force feed my religion to anyone else, or to force meet anyone else’s religion to me! You’ve brought a victory for us all!

    • Snuggie

      Well, she hasnt brought victory to me in anyway. She has brought shame to me. To say she dosent believe in GOD! He is the very reason you can even go on television and say that. UGH!

  • Joe

    If religion is so great, then why have most religious institutions felt the need to persecute those who refuse to be converted?

    I wonder if all the Christians out there who are angry, would have been okay with this banner if it was of an Islamic-theme?

    Hypocrisy is trash.

    Great to see this young lady has liberated Cranston HIgh School of the menacing tax free enterprise that is Christianity.

    • Snuggie

      The aclu isn’t a religious institution.

  • gramps


    Jessica: 15

    Religion: 6

  • Tom

    Why do we have public schools in the first place? Oh that’s right, I forgot, Thomas Jefferson started them so that kids could learn to read the Bible. Or has that part of U.S. history been conveniently “revised” by Progressives too?

    • Dave_D

      Where did you learn that Tom? Or did you just make it up? On the chance that you learned that somewhere, let me assure you that it is complete bollocks.

      • tsalnew

        I was wondering the same thing

    • freethought

      You need to learn your history from somewhere besides the pulpit. Open a real book for once.

    • massman

      Did you read that in the Bible or something? How ludicrous.

  • BFM

    The ones defending this girl whay have you not go after Obama’s Muslin Holiday stamp?

    • jp

      spell check is your friend, so is education, try at least one

  • Damian

    Only those who have blemishes on their Conscience can be so vicious against
    what is Good, Moral, and Just.
    I have seen Communism with my own eyes, and thanks to people like this brat
    we are coming to the same system, and it is not pretty .
    Remember the phrase : when they came for the Jews, I did not speak as I was not a Jew, when they came for …
    You can add the rest

  • Tom

    From Benjamin Franklin’s speech to Congress on June 28, 1787: “In the beginning of the Contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the divine protection.-Our prayers, Sir, were heard, & they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance?”

    • tsalnew

      Benjamin Franklin was a freemason. God and politics were never discussed or mentioned in a masonic temple. His strong belief that God should be kept out of any form of assembly – along with other founding fathers who were freemasons – kept church and state separate.

  • dan

    this is her 15 mins. of fame!!!!!

  • dan

    sorry..i did not say andy worhol said that in case anyone was wondering

  • The Batman

    Let me start by saying that I am a born again Christian which means that I believe in the God of the Bible and His role as Creator of the universe and everything in it. Also in His Son, Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world and in His Holy Spirit which indwells believers and helps to guide their lives. That being said, I have to say that I agree that this young lady has shown that she has the courage of her convictions and is willing to publicly defend her beliefs (or lack of belief, depending on your point of view). Most people today hide behind the anonimity of the internet to spew intolerance, hatred, insults and just plain rude behavior all under the guise of expressing an opinion. Do I agree with her? Absolutely not! Will I defend her right to continue believing as she does and expressing her views about it? Most definitely!

    But what it really boils down to is that these are just words on a plaque. If your belief in God is held in your heart then this plaque being removed becomes a non-issue. All of the name calling and insults on both sides of this discussion continues to prove the point that people hide behind the “wall” of the internet in order to vent the anger and hatred that already exists in their soul.

    • Snuggie

      I diissagree. I also am a born again Christian. How can we be about our fathers buisness if we dont stand for his name. Be like david who stood before the Giant! I think the school shoud take this issue further, go down fighting!

    • tsalnew

      Nicely said Batman!

  • tsalnew

    I don’t believe it is really important that she won or lost or that the banner was taken down

    On the bigger picture, what did she learn? She learned not to accept what another believes. She learned not to try to understand what another person’s point of view is or to accept that we are all different.

    I have a friend who will not let her children so much as say the word Christmas. They can’t even sing Jingle Bells (nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with winter) because it is somehow gong to hurt them. At one point the children were reading an American Girl story. When they reached the point where the Swedish girl in the story was celebrating St. Lucia, they literally froze as if it were a horrible thing for them to read about. St. Lucia of course is not even a religious holiday. It is Sweden’s festival of light celebrating the longest night of the year. These kids already know fear of another belief.

    And someone above mentioned religious institutions closing their walls against other beliefs and I agree. Although please understand that all who are religious (perhaps spiritual is a better word) do not need to be inside a religious structure. One really has little to do with the other.

    I honestly believe that shutting out everyone and everything different than we are as individuals has moved this world to the place it is in. It really has nothing to do with religion and has everything to do with lack of tolerance. If you read some of the comments here, that is very clear.

    In that regard, I feel as if Ahlquist lost something very valuable – we all did.

  • Jim_M

    do the people that always bring up the “they came for the xxxx….” ever actually listen to it? I think it should go, “They came for the people with no god and I said nothing for I had a god. They came for the people who didn’t worship Yaweh and I said nothing because he was my god. They came for the Catholics but I said nothing because I was protestant. Then they came for me because I wasn’t in the sect they wanted and there was no one left to save me”

  • Tom

    If you’re not a liberal at 20 then you don’t have a heart.
    If you’re not a conservative at 40 then you don’t have a brain.
    – Winston Churchill

    • tsalnew

      You are proving my point here :)

  • Rhode Island public school agrees to remove prayer – Reuters | Hot Story

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