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Judge: Last Ditch Effort to Save Banner "Misguided and Frivolous"

Judge Ronald R. Lagueux had strong words for the group that filed an eleventh hour request to save the prayer banner at Cranston West — even after it had been removed. He said their argument was based on "a mishmash of misguided and frivolous arguments."

Judge Ronald Lagueux called the prayer banner saga a "drawn-out affair" consisting of two months of "divisive debate."

"It is time to move on," the judge wrote in his Thursday denial of a motion by a group of past and present Cranston High School West students asking him to intervene and consider reversing his January ruling ordering the prayer banner hanging in the school auditorium be removed.

Lagueux described the motion, which was filed by Michael Motaranni, Christian Frangos, Olivia Frangos, Carolyn Mesagno, Lori McClain, Jared McMullen and Ronald L'Heureux, as not "timely" and based on "frivolous arguments."

He wrote that their request for a motion to intervene in a closed case, a stay in  the decision and order and for him to reconsider his decision came after the banner had already come down and was already "a done deal."

"Courts generally look with disfavor on motions to intervene that are filed after the entry of final judgement," Lagueux wrote. "The matter of the prayer mural was covered extensively by the news media. Moreover, it seems apparent tot ht Court tat at least some of the would-be intervenors attended some or all of the many public hearings held by the Cranston School Committee in connection with this issue. By mid-January, when the court issued its Decision and Order, Movants knew that the Court's ruling had not gone as they hoped."

More than a month went by as the School Committee went through a process before deciding to not appeal the ruling. The final judgement was entered two-and-a-half weeks later. It wasn't until then that the group filed their motion.

The group's arguments, which were based on various bits of case law, is described by Lagueux as "a mishmash of misguided and frivolous arguments."

"They assert that compelling and dispositive arguments were presented to the Cranston School Committee at the public hearings that were not included in the Defendants' briefs to this Court. Movants believe that these arguments, if considered by this court, would have resulted in a different ruling," Lagueux wrote. "They are wrong."

Quoting Alexander Pope, Lagueux said "A little learning is a dangerous thing."

Lagueux said the Movants argued that all of the Supreme Court's rulings on the Establishment Cause of the Constitution, which sets the framework for separation of church and state standards, is based on one decision: Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing Township in 1947, which they said was "wrongly decided in contravention" of the constitution.

They also cite the state and national Constitutions and various writings from the founding fathers that speak to the role of Christianity in our country.

Those arguments were frivolous, Lagueux said, because the Movants "concede as a part of their argument that this Court's decision is in line with a half-century of Supreme Court precedent. This court is not merely guided, but it is bound, by Supreme Court precedent."

That requirement is known as stare decisis and is "a bedrock of the rule of law on which the stability of our nation is based," the judge wrote. "Suffice it to say that the Supreme Court precedents on school prayer are clear, and this court is bound to adhere to that law."

Peruse our exhaustive coverage of the prayer banner saga by scrolling through our archives HERE.

Joe The Plumber April 20, 2012 at 04:30 AM
You say that "You are right that a belief in God was a strong part of our founding philosophy" That is God. Not Allah, Buddha, nor the non-existence of God. They believed that our rights came from God. That is sectarian. It is okay for students to sing "God bless America" but by your logic, students would also have to sing "Allah bless America" and "No One bless America", etc.
Bill Santagata April 20, 2012 at 08:19 AM
"God" does not necessarily mean the Christian god (Who happens to be named "God"). Many of the Founders were Christians (of various sects), and many were also Deists (who believed in a Supreme Being who created the world but did not interfere in man's affairs). But despite their religious beliefs, they also believed strongly that the government should not favor any one of them over any other. The courts have held that general, brief, evocations of a Supreme Being do not touch on an establishment of religion which is forbidden. While this theory is largely untested, Justice O'Connor's concurrence in Elk Grove Unified School District v. Newdow lays out a good framework for determining what the boundaries are. Such an evocation must meet four criteria: 1. The reference must be brief and in a ceremonial context. 2. The reference must be non-sectarian (no "Jesus" no "Allah" no "Buddha") 3. The reference must have a degree of historical and/or cultural ubiquity. 4. The reference must not implicate a religious activity or ritual. This is why things like "In God We Trust" and "Under God" or the Supreme Court opening its sessions with "God save this honorable court!" will be upheld. This is what the courts have ruled and not only do I respect it, but I also agree with it. A school having an officially designated school prayer goes a lot further than this though and clearly violates the law as it is currently written and interpreted. (cont'd)
Bill Santagata April 20, 2012 at 08:24 AM
(cont'd 2) Jessica wasn't trying to extend the meaning of the Establishment Clause in any new way, such as by challenging "Under God." She was just trying to get the school to follow the law as it is currently written and interpreted. As our country becomes more religiously diverse, there will be a greater chance that an illegal government endorsement of religion will reach the ears or eyes of someone who does not share those sentiments, and who will resent the use of government resources to push a religious ideology they do not hold, and will use the force of the law, if necessary, to get the government to follow the law. The next controversy is brewing in Pennsylvania where a high school has placed a 10 Commandments monument in front of its doors. Government schools have no business even *suggesting* to students that they worship the "one true god" or "keep holy the sabbath." The government does not exist to push someone's religious ideology on other people's children. Children can pray in school. They can post copies of prayers or 10 Commandments in their lockers. But it is up to each of them and their families, not the school, to decide for themselves what their spiritual path in life will be, free from any prodding by the government.
Tom Simpson June 22, 2012 at 05:14 PM
It is interesting that on the 10th of September, 1782 some of those "frivolous" Founding Fathers in the Continental Congress approved to print, in response to the need for Bibles, "a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use in public schools." Wow! I wonder if they were Christian men and knew just how much trouble they could get into???? And we wonder what is wrong in our country today!
Bill Santagata June 22, 2012 at 05:50 PM
This resolution is not, in any sense, what people today make it out to be: http://www.liarsforjesus.com/downloads/LFJ_chap_1.pdf And even if it *were*, the 1st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1791 and the 14th Amendment, which applied it to the state governments, wasn't adopted until after the Civil War. Not to mention the fact that *public* schools did not exist until near the end of the 19th century. This resolution was adopted before the United States was even a country and would not have violated the Constitution, which hadn't even been written yet. Public schools will get into serious trouble if they preach the Bible to their students (see Abington School District v. Schempp). The Bible can be included in a school library and can be used in certain educational contexts (for example, discussing how a novel makes reference to a certain Biblical story), but when we send our children to public schools we are not sending them to church. The supposed "ills" of society cannot be linked to the fact that we do not use our public school system as a means of coercing children into becoming Christians. What religion you raise your children in is up to you, not the government, and you cannot use public schools as a means of instilling your personal religious beliefs in other people's children.

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