What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 31, 2013

I Wonder If Our Friends In Connellsville Know About This

For years a banner hung in the auditorium of a public High School in Cranston, Rhode Island.  It was the official school prayer until the Supreme Court banned state sponsored prayer in 1962.  Since then the banner remained affixed to the wall.  Here is the text:
Our Heavenly Father.

Grant us each day the desire to do our best. To grow mentally and morally as well as physically. To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers. To be honest with ourselves as well as with others. Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win. Teach us the value of true friendship. Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.

You can see the banner here.  While the general ideas laid out in the "prayer" aren't that offensive (it is, let's remember simply a prayer "to do our best" and to "help us be good sports" and so on), what is offensive is that it's an official prayer to God hung in a public school.

After the ACLU and a local high schooler named Jessica Ahlquist filed a lawsuit objecting,  the judge in this case ordered it removed, writing:
The Supreme Court has traditionally drawn a clear line between government conduct which might be acceptable in some settings and the conduct which is prohibited in public schools. In Van Orden, where the Supreme Court held that a monument displaying the Ten Commandments was acceptable on the 44-acre grounds of the Texas State Capitol, the Court underscored this distinction:
This case, moreover, is distinguishable from instances where the Court has found Ten Commandments displays impermissible. The display is not on the grounds of a public school, where, given the impressionability of the young, government must exercise particular care in separating church and state.
And what happened to Jessica?

The good Christians of Cranston, Rhode Island objected:
She is 16, the daughter of a firefighter and a nurse, a self-proclaimed nerd who loves Harry Potter and Facebook. But Jessica Ahlquist is also an outspoken atheist who has incensed this heavily Roman Catholic city with a successful lawsuit to get a prayer removed from the wall of her high school auditorium, where it has hung for 49 years.

A federal judge ruled this month that the prayer’s presence at Cranston High School West was unconstitutional, concluding that it violated the principle of government neutrality in religion. In the weeks since, residents have crowded school board meetings to demand an appeal, Jessica has received online threats and the police have escorted her at school, and Cranston, a dense city of 80,000 just south of Providence, has throbbed with raw emotion.

State Representative Peter G. Palumbo, a Democrat from Cranston, called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a popular talk radio show. Three separate florists refused to deliver her roses sent from a national atheist group. The group, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, has filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights.
Not exactly a WWJD moment for them, I'm afraid.

More recently, however, Jessica's received another award:
Since her successful challenge last year of a prayer banner at Cranston High School West, Jessica Ahlquist has been traveling the country speaking about First Amendment rights.

But not until now has she been invited to speak at the Playboy Mansion.

Ahlquist, 17, is scheduled to speak at the Playboy Mansion in Holmby Hills, CA on May 22nd where she will receive a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award. The award in the Education category -- $5,000 cash and a commemorative plaque -- is for Ahlquist's "courageous and successful lawsuit" in the Cranston prayer banner case, a publicist for the foundation said in a statement.
She won. This "evil little thing" won for religious freedom. For everyone.

I wonder if our friends in Connellsville and New Kensington know about this.

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