Let school prayer banner issue go away, Cranston

The Cranston School Committee will decide tonight whether or not it wants to continue embarrassing the state in voting if it wants to appeal the school prayer banner case.

Here’s hoping they decide to do the right thing and not fight the ruling, won by high school junior Jessica Ahlquist, that the prayer banner must come down before Rhode Island gets any more of a public relations black eye because of the matter.

“The anger and hatred directed at Ms. Ahlquist — she was called “an evil little thing” on talk radio by a Cranston state representative — helps explain why the judge, responding to her brave lawsuit, did his duty under the Constitution and ordered immediate removal of the prayer,” according to an editorial in the New York Times.

And in response to a number of local florists who refused to deliver flowers to Ahlquist, Annie Laurie Gaylor, of the Freedom From Religion Foundation told the Associated Press, “What kind of people are they in Rhode Island?”

The school district has already incurred hefty legal bills in defending the prayer banner. And the ACLU, who defended Ahlquist, is asking the city to cover its lawyer fees to the tune of $173,000.

Especially in light of the fact that the same school committee said it was too cash-strapped to have a charter school open in the district, it should not be spending money on what is pretty obviously a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment (or separation of church and state).

Residents and school committee members have said the prayer banner should stay because it is part of the school’s history. But historical significance is no reason to flout the First Amendment of the Constitution.

If the school district wants to preserve the prayer banner’s legacy, it should create a display at the school that could memorialize its history, Ahlquist’s legal battle to have it removed and the torment she endured from her peers and the community for doing so.

Short of that, let’s hope this issue goes away before Rhode Island has to endure any more national media flagellation because of it.

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Bob Plain is the editor/publisher of Rhode Island's Future. Previously, he's worked as a reporter for several different news organizations both in Rhode Island and across the country.

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