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ACLU Will Sue over Banner

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced it will file suit against the Cranston School District after their 4-3 vote to keep a prayer mural in the auditorium of Cranston West.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union will take legal action against the Cranston School District after school officials to keep a prayer mural on the wall at Cranston High School West.

In a release, the ACLU said it erred in "expecting school officials to take their constitutional duties seriously" and would take legal action against the district after the committee voted 4-3 to keep the banner, "ignoring warnings about the cost of litigation and despite the school district's ongoing and severe budgetary problems, which has led to layoffs and program cuts."

The ACLU raised the issue last July after a complaint from a parent. In a letter to the district, Steven Brown, executive director of the ACLU, wrote "there can be no question that the school auditorium’s prayer display violates a core principle of the First Amendment."

Many residents at the public forum argued that the banner was written secularly and can relate to someone of any religion, including its author, David Bradley, who wrote it in 1960. More of a moral prayer, supporters say, it asks "Our Heavenly Father" to grant school members the desire to do their best and live morally and decently.

Even though the banner has been posted since 1963, "crucial protections of the Bill of Rights" have been around even longer, Brown said. Citing Supreme Court decisions, the district can't argue that a lack of complaints means the banner is any less unconstitutional, Brown wrote in the July 6 letter, and justifications that prayers like this are "ceremonial" or "non-sectarian" only "serves to trivialize what is, at its core, a deeply religious message. It is, after all, an entreaty to God."

The banner issue is reminiscent of a time when Pawtucket City officials justified the display of a nativity scene by comparing a Christmas creche to a Thanksgiving turkey, "as nothing more than just another secular symbol of a national holiday," Brown said. "The genius of the First Amendment principle barring government entanglement with religion is that it protects majority religions from being trivialized or politicized by governmental actions that only weaken the meaning of religion itself."

A School Committee working group is weighing legal options. One possibility involves the city defending the school district for free. The district is also soliciting donations for the prayer's defense fund. 

A previous complaint was lodged against the banner but it was resolved between the district and the complainant, school officials said. In this most recent case, the district didn't know about the complaint until the ACLU letter.

School Committee Member Frank Lombardi acknowledged at the meeting that if the district were to lose this case, they will have to pay for it. But upholding the morality of the student population was an important part of his job and therefore would be supporting the “non-denominational” prayer.

School Committee Member Michael Traficante reiterated that point.  He said the banner in his opinion is not discriminatory.

“It’s our obligation to protect the moral fabric of our students,” Traficante said.  “And that banner does that.”

Donna C March 15, 2011 at 05:21 PM
The ACLU should just drop this. Everyone is complaining about the cost of keeping the banner us...what about the ACLU? They can choose not to sue, and no money will be spent. The school committee made their decision, in the democratic way, now drop it.
Keri March 16, 2011 at 04:13 AM
I have to agree with Traficante in this article. The banner is not discriminatory. Tired of people complaining and being angry about little things when there are bigger issues that need to be fixed. This angry parent that decided to go against the banner being up is only going to make matters worse. Its the breeding ground for more hate!!! Not happy about the banner, but she/he will be even more unhappy when the city gets sued and more activities are taken away from their child because they had to pay a lawsuit that was induced by him/her to make sure the banner in which one student put his heart and sole in making it get ripped down. What happened to society? We are now a "Sue Happy Society" which is ruining our country. Someone always has to pay the price for one's unhappiness! I agree the ACLU needs to drop it!!!!
Ann Fuscellaro March 16, 2011 at 08:10 AM
I agree with the above.. The ACLU should get on to bigger and better things. It was voted on so drop it. They are always ready to sue someone... We are getting sick and tired of this, because one person complains, they are ready to sue.... OMG give it a rest...
Golden March 16, 2011 at 10:20 AM
Tell the ACLU to go take a flying **** enough already, and to the person complaining go find something else to keep you busy,like volunteer somewhere instead of create havoc. The City cannot afford to "defend" this,we are broke remember? Where are all the lawyers when you need them?????????????????????
Cranston Resident March 16, 2011 at 05:16 PM
The ACLU is doing what it always does. It preys on the taxpayer dollars to fund it'd progressive and communist agenda. I will contribute to fight them on this issue. If someone would post contact info for the prayer defense fund, it would be a great help.
Foxeyroxie15 March 16, 2011 at 09:24 PM
The ACLU action is violating OUR civil liberties. Brown - don't you get it???? IT IS NOT A PRAYER...read the whole thing. Where was the ACLU on 9/11??? How about the civil liberties of those who died? How about spending the millions you have on bringing Al-Queda to a Court of Nations? How about you & your clones butting out? You are a huge part of the problem in this country. Look around at the kids - a LOT of them could use the moral guidance since they don't get it at home or abandon any values they're taught when they go out the front door & hang with their 'friends'. Majority rules - the banner stays. Though my kids are long out of the school system, I too, shall contribute what I can to fight this issue. For the ACLU to take this on is morally offensive. Defend the homeless, vets, people who need to be defended.
Keri March 16, 2011 at 09:42 PM
agreed...definitely not a prayer! heavenly just means something awesome and amen means the end.....The ACLU sucks!
Donna C March 17, 2011 at 04:03 AM
I understand there are some lawyers and groups who will take this case pro-bono. I hope so!! The ACLU will suck us dry of money needed for more important things. Steve Brown should just drop this ridiculous case, and move on to other anti-American BS cases they care about. This organization was based on communism. WHY do we even take them seriously? They should be run out of town!! To be honest, I have not heard of one case the ACLU was involved with that was for the good. They are EVIL and anti-American! I have no use for them or the weasel Steve Brown!
Foxeyroxie15 March 17, 2011 at 03:44 PM
To the ACLU and Mr. Brown - Happy St. Patrick's day, Happy St. Joseph's day, Happy Easter. Hopefully, you'll leave Memorial Day, Mother's day, Father's Day and the 4th of July alone. Enjoy spending your money that says "In God We Trust". Hopefully, you stand and salute when the Pledge of Allegiance is said although your 'allegiance' is to the almighty dollar & not the nation that has given us freedom.
Anthony March 20, 2011 at 02:41 PM
So " Our heavenly father" isn't a religious reference then? Need some explanation beyond name calling.
Foxeyroxie15 March 20, 2011 at 07:18 PM
'Our heavenly father' is a Christian/Judeo belief, I'll grant you that. The subject matter of the banner imposes no religious overtones. So, to make people happy & avoid any "politically incorrect" BS, I suggest that they just remove what the minority deems offensive (Our Heavenly Father) and leave the words of the banner itself alone. There is nothing offensive in it - the only ones who would find it offensive are the students/parents who has no moral belief system. Some students have said they never even noticed it so I would have to say the School is not ramming it down their throats. It's a guideline to being a good student/person while in school & to carry on thru life. In God We Trust !!!!!!
Donna C March 20, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Rhodegirl...I will have to respectfully disagree with you. NOT ONE word comes off that banner!!! It stays as is. People who are offended, don't look at it. Taking any words off that banner is caving in to the the PC police, and it's time to STOP doing that. The ACLU needs to drop this whole case and butt out. As I stated already, the decision has been made by the Cranston School Committee, who are all democratically elected, and made the deciosn for this city. The ACLU need not apply. Go somewhere else with your BS. Case CLOSED!!!
Golden March 21, 2011 at 09:33 AM
Touche' The ACLU needs to go away forever!
Foxeyroxie15 March 21, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Donna - as a Christian & Catholic, I have no problem with the banner. My suggestion was only meant to keep the ACLU out. Unless some lawyers step up and take the case pro bono, I don't see how we can circumvent Brown & his ACLU cronies. They're not going to give up. They revel in taking on 'causes' like this, backed by a man who has millions to spend (& who, BTW. is the owner of Progressive Insurance!). I, like you, agree with the School Committee who we voted in to represent our interests, that of coming generations of school children. I, too, hate the PC police. I take pleasure in being politically incorrect at times! The problem is that the ACLU has an unlimited supply of $$ - even if the economy was in good shape, we'd never have the funds to fight them. Sometimes we have to make concessions - this may be one. However, the ACLU is definitely wrong about the substance of the banner. It is not a prayer. It's one card we hold. It doesn't sound like any prayer but provides a guideline for being a good member of the school & society. God knows, with what we see on the news, society in general could use those words to live by. There's plenty to be said about following traditional values. Society today is crazy. It's frightening to see how it's changed & forsee the future. I agree that the banner should stay as is but afraid the majority will lose this one. Hopefully, prayerfully, I'm wrong. The majority is always overlooked these days yet we are the backbone of the USA.
Donna C March 22, 2011 at 12:39 AM
Rhodegirl..understood. I know what you are saying, and I understand. But I get so flippin' mad about this stuff, and I despise that turkey Steven Brown and the ACLU. I am just so sick and tired of always having to concede, or apologize or give in. Frankly, I am sick of it!! Why can't they concede!! Political correctness is ruining my city, my state and my country. We must fight back, or we will lose it all.
Tyler April 17, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Well, aside from the bickering here , the public should simply wait and see what the outcome will be. I notice alot of mean spirited people here sometimes. The goal we all have is to uphold what is right. The banner should be removed because it is clearly unconstitutional. Not sure what the " three words" the author was referring to .... but if they are " Heavenly Father" and "Amen" ... why would someone need to " seek help" is they objected to those words? Is that NOT what this whole debate is about? I did chuckle at the guys response. A few words spelled wrong. Ha ....but I got the point. Anyway, I'm new to the area. And hope the dialogue changes soon to " the banner has been removed" versus " should it be removed" .... Just one guys opinion.
Tyler April 17, 2011 at 01:16 PM
The banner is RELIGIOUS ! The School is PUBLIC! Are you not getting it yet ????????????????????????????????????????
Donna C April 17, 2011 at 02:54 PM
Tyler, I get it. You don't seem to. Welcome to the area. I hope you like it here.
Keri April 17, 2011 at 03:12 PM
Donna C. i agree with you....well spoken. :-)

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