Judge Orders Prayer Banner Removed

U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux issued a decision in the case against the prayer banner at Cranston West in favor of the ACLU and plaintiff Jessica Ahlquist this afternoon.

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.

Joe The Plumber January 27, 2012 at 05:02 AM
I do not want a theocracy. I just want to be able to exercise my religion freely, without interference from people like you. Last time I checked, the constitution had my back on that. And for the record, with atheists representing 1.6% of our society that pretty much puts you in the rabid minority. And I said it with less than half the words it took you.
Liberty Janus January 27, 2012 at 05:30 AM
You want the government to put your prayers in schools. That's theocratic. You CAN exercise your religion freely. Not one person has advocated the contrary. You're NOT free to have the government put up your prayers in public institutions. Theocracy does not equal freedom, it equals tyranny. For the record: I'm part of the 24%, 76 million American non-Christians whose constitutional rights you want to violate. In Cranston, you're the rabid minority. Sensible Cranston residents support separation and the polls reflect this. Jessica said it well in the quote that finishes up her New York Times interview, when asked about her rabid Cranston opponents: “It’s almost like making a child get a shot even though they don’t want to. It’s for their own good. I feel like they might see it as a very negative thing right now, but I’m defending their Constitution, too.”
Paul Auger January 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
Joe can you give me concrete, specific, REAL life examples of how YOU are unable to exercise your religion freely, without interference? How has the prayer banner being up made it easier for you practice your religion and how will its removal without interfere with this?
Joe The Plumber January 27, 2012 at 04:01 PM
I do not want the government to put my prayers in school. I want students who want to freely express their beliefs to be able to do so in schools, or in public, whenever or where they choose to do so. I beleive the constitution affords that.
Joe The Plumber January 27, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I do not understand why Janus is so ashamed of his beliefs that he/she will not admit to being an atheist. And for the record atheists only represent 1.6% of our society.
Liberty Janus January 27, 2012 at 05:08 PM
JTP, You continue to argue not with facts but with attempts to manipulate emotion, misrepresenting statistics, and lies. You DO want the government to put YOUR prayer in schools. Students DO have the right to express their beliefs in schools, some private places, and in public (with contextual prohibitions). They DON’T have the right, as you don’t, to have the school express their religious beliefs for them, because the Constitution rightly prohibits it. This is a simple distinction, and the root of religious freedom in this country. This has been pointed out to you repeatedly in many threads, yet you simply ignore this over and over and over and over and over and over hoping the distinction will disappear under your ignorance and misrepresentations. When you ignore this, and preach that the government advocate YOUR beliefs for you, or ANY student’s beliefs for them, but deny that that’s what you’re doing, you appear even MORE theocratic than you already are, because you’re simply lying about the facts.
Liberty Janus January 27, 2012 at 05:14 PM
This is NOT an issue of atheists versus Christians. This is JTP’s standard misrepresentation. JTP’ Christian theocracy specifically violates the rights of the 24% of Americans (74 million people) who are non-Christian. His attempt to tap into Christian’s irrational hate of atheists is scapegoating AND an ad hominem attack AND a straw man and rather insulting to thoughtful believers capable of understanding something so simple and fundamental to the country as separation of church and state. He uses this tactic repeatedly and intentionally and this makes it lying. We live in a constitutional republic, not an absolute democracy, and rights are protected by the Constitution against absolute majorities. That’s what rights are - that’s their point. Everyone’s, Christians included, right to their religious beliefs is protected by the establishment and free exercise clauses, not violated by them. To deny this is to advocate a form of tyranny and makes JTP just a petty wanna-be-dictator.
Bill Graham February 15, 2012 at 09:09 PM
We atheists seem to be taking a lot of unnecessary flak on this blog. Religious practice has no place in governmental affairs, especially schools where nonsense such as creationism is espoused by Christian fundamentalists. Of course there are exceptions, but stereotyping atheists as hateful because we disagree with religious practice is nothing but distasteful and, dare I say it, un-Christian intolerance. The Supreme Court of the United States in 1878 put a firm stop to religion trumping law in Reynolds v. United States when bigamy was disallowed. The finding is clear: "... laws are made for the government of actions, and while they cannot interfere with mere religious belief and opinions, they may with practices." and "So here, as a law of the organization of society under the exclusive dominion of the United States, it is provided that plural marriages shall not be allowed. Can a man excuse his practices to the contrary because of his religious belief? To permit this would be to make the professed doctrines of religious belief superior to the law of the land, and in effect to permit every citizen to become a law unto himself. Government could exist only in name under such circumstances." So stop trying to impose your distasteful religion on others.
Kimberly Manchester February 15, 2012 at 09:22 PM
The problem is by protecting atheism as a religion, it becomes a religious belief that is imposed upon others. www.asktazi.com
Ross Stapleton-Gray February 15, 2012 at 09:29 PM
No, this issue would arise if no one at all was an atheist: the Constitutional protections both allow you to worship however you might choose, in your private life, including as part of a church (which also enjoys freedom from government taxation), AND ensure that you can't be subjected to anyone ELSE's religion, imposed or facilitated by the state. I'm sure that various others could have brought that lawsuit, e.g., Quakers, Shakers and Hindus would all have problems with that particular banner, I think. Atheists are becoming more vocal, for which I'm grateful, but many believers are also on the side of removing a state-sponsored prayer from a publicly-funded, state-controlled space.
Joe The Plumber February 15, 2012 at 09:46 PM
If a tree falls in the woods........... Ross, go back to England.
Robin Lionheart February 15, 2012 at 11:02 PM
@Kimberly writes “The problem is by protecting atheism as a religion, it becomes a religious belief that is imposed upon others.” That’s as foolish as saying “by protecting the right of gays to marry their partners, it imposes same-sex marriage upon others”.
FLOYD March 09, 2012 at 06:26 PM
HockeyBob - Don't you idiots understand the Constitution of these United States. The separation of church and state was and is: That the state shall not interfere with the religious rights of the citizens of the United States. Its obvious you didn't go beyond the 3rd grade. You seem to forget that this nation is: ONE NATION UNDER GOD. Now, with your extremely limited brain power, do you understand what separation of church as state means. I will be completely surprised if you do. If you don't like living in a nation that is free because our forefathers believed in Almighty God and even inscribed on our coins and elsewhere that they believed: IN GOD WE TRUST. If you don't like it then take your scrawny ass to a Muslim country and see how you like the treatment there.
john March 09, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Boy a prayer saying to treat each other with respect. I guess the ASSCLU wants everyone to just beat the crap out of each other and have no respect. Hay that is the way thing are today. Good job ASSCLU and judges keep up the poor work.
Paul Auger March 09, 2012 at 08:15 PM
The funny thing is John I was at the last meeting and the people who's actions least reflected the values of the prayer were those who wanted to save the prayer banner; The truth be told it was not the ACLU who was encouraging "everyone to just beat the crap out of each other and have no respect." it was the prayer banner mob. They yelled over people they disagreed with, demanded more time then they were entitled to and left "appeal" signs all over the empty auditorium when they left. I agree that the values of the sign were not being lived up to but it was not the ACLU's fault it was those who were defending the banner.
BJGravewalker March 09, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Atheist insults Christian, Christian insults Atheist neither one is an example of deceny and forbearance. One will not hear the other, both are blind and deaf, cutoff from truth groping in the dark, both sides ignorant and without light living in a world of lies and fantasies.
Adam Eve March 10, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Christians state it is the absolute (faithful) truth that god exists. Atheists state that there is no overseeing spiritual being, and that the world was not created by one (ie It likely originated > naturally) If you don't feel either is correct, then you may be counted as Agnostic. Agnostics really just require proof one way or the other to then decide what it is true. I think during this decision process you are best to lean towards the 'natural' theory, taught in ALL public schools that the entire universe started with the big bang.
Robin Lionheart March 10, 2012 at 04:01 AM
@FLOYD You seem to forget that this nation is e pluribus unum. We’re just defending our religious liberty. We like freedom of religion just fine. Why don’t you?
Adam Eve March 10, 2012 at 04:14 AM
I think the freedom of religion laws could be a tad stronger myself. I mean I don't even like seeing church signs on public streets let alone inside a school hall. Can't we just ban all of these backward religious signs, I mean they are no good for young minds reading them.
Robin Lionheart March 10, 2012 at 05:30 AM
@Adam No, banning religious speech would be censorship.
Robin Lionheart March 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
@Kimberly Manchester A Facebook group called “Preserve the Banner” made T‐shirts like your friend suggested, and was selling them for $5 each. Did your friend have something to do with that? (http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2012/01/cranston-preser.html) @Ann Fuscellaro You’re suggesting that a school which refused to take their school prayer banner down, and spent over $100,000 fighting for it, would expel a kid who wore it on a T‐shirt?
Robin Lionheart March 10, 2012 at 05:19 PM
E.G. Daddy writes “There is an Anti-American Muslim (with a forged birth certificate and a dead guy's social security number) squatting in the White House.” See what happens when you teach someone to base their conclusions on faith, not evidence?
Robin Lionheart March 10, 2012 at 05:31 PM
No, you have made a false equivalence. Both sides are not equally guilty of your charges.
Mark Wyman March 11, 2012 at 03:12 AM
I like many of you alls got real scared by the secular stuff that was been teached to are children in them public schools and the unChristain stuff that was being rammed down there little throwts. Well the Lord called me to take maters into my own hand and to do something about all them lies our children are teached. Did you know that a teacher is allowed to talk about ungodly people like Einstein and Darwin but our not allowed to spend the hole day reading Bible stories to are youngsters? That is why we need to protect are youngins from dangerous secular humanist garbage been teached in public schools -- like physics and biology. Are childrens good education is bout the most important thing we can give them all.
Mark Wyman March 11, 2012 at 03:17 AM
So why whould anyone trust it to nonChristains and other Satanic types? I think I speak with some authority when I say that public schools our no place to teach children. I know that I got so disgusted with what was being teached as “fact” by nonChristains that Jesus Christ Himself called me out of school at the age 15. He in His mercy spared me from occultist subjects like foreign tongues (French) and occult animal sacrifices (frog dissection). Now I am hearing Jesus’s call again to become a teacher so that I can make sure are children are not polluted by been told that they come from some apes. Yes it is shocking but it is true as can be! One thing I can promise you – their WILL be prayer in OUR school! ALL the time!! And NO black trenchcoats, harlotty make-up or things pierced! And our children will learn to WRITE RIGHT! Hallelujah!"
Kimberly Manchester March 11, 2012 at 03:39 AM
In learning to write right, perhaps they will also learn the difference between "our" and "are". Not to nitpick, but proper grammar is important.
Kimberly Manchester March 11, 2012 at 03:39 AM
@Lionheart: No, I didn't; I used to work in Marketing so when I see/hear a good idea I like to throw it out there to give someone the opportunity to run with it. www.asktazi.com
Mark Wyman March 11, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Kimberly not to nitpick but you need to learn about satire.
Kimberly Manchester March 11, 2012 at 12:26 PM
OMG! I am so glad to know your comments were sarcastic!!!! This issue has brought out some pretty wild arguments (my advice column has seen some crazy ones) and satire/sarcasm does not come through in these postings. www.asktazi.com
Kimberly Manchester March 11, 2012 at 12:33 PM
However, I defend my stance on proper grammar - all the more if you are trying to be satirical.


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