The prayer banner at , which sparked a citywide discussion about religious freedom and separation of church and state, has been ordered removed.
U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux regarding the banner, or mural, late this afternoon.
The court ruling orders the prayer's removal and the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced on Dorrance St. in Providence tomorrow (Thursday).
School Committee Chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi said in a telephone interview that she is "dissapointed in the end result" and said she hasn't had time to read the entire 40-page decision yet and planned to tonight.
The School Committee will discuss the decision next Tuesday, Iannazzi said, and by then the district should have a better idea of "where to go from here."
In the decision, Lagueux said Ahlquist "is clearly an articulate and courageous young woman, who took a brave stand, particularly in the light of the hostile response she has received from the community."
Lagueux states that "no amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything
other than a prayer, and a Christian one at that."
"The Prayer concludes with the indisputably religious closing: 'Amen;' a Hebrew word used by Jews, Christians and Muslims to conclude prayers. In between, the Prayer espouses values of honesty, kindness, friendship and sportsmanship. While these goals are commendable, the reliance on God’s intervention as the way to achieve those goals is not consistent with a secular purpose."
Lagueux referred to the School Committee's meeting during which the majority voted to formally defend the mural, stating "while the tenor of the School Committee's open meeting at times resembled a religious revival," committee members offered varied reasons why they felt the banner should remain, including two members who "were clearly motivated by their adherence to strong Catholic religious beliefs."
"The Court refrains from second-guessing the expressed motives of the Committee members, but nonetheless must point out that tradition is a murky and dangerous bog. While all agree that some traditions should be honored, others must be put to rest as our national values and notions of tolerance and diversity evolve," Lagueux wrote. "At any rate, no amount of history and tradition can cure a constitutional infraction. The Court concludes that Cranston’s purposes in installing and, more recently, voting to retain the Prayer Mural are not clearly secular."
To read the entire 40 page decision, click .
For a list of all stories about the mural issue, which will give you a detailed play-by-play of the lengthy and contentious public debate, click HERE.
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More details will be posted as they become available, including a deeper analysis of the decision and reaction from both sides of the issue. Stay tuned for coverage throughout the day tomorrow.