Controversy Over School Banner
There is a controversy brewing here in Rhode Island, over a banner hanging in a high school gymnasium in Cranston, Rhode Island. This banner has been hanging in the school for decades. It was first presented in 1963 to the first graduating class of the school. The banner reads:
“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.
The controversy started when a junior at the school, who is an atheist, sued the city and school committee saying it was a violation of the separation of church and state and the first amendment. With the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU behind her, this one high school student took the school to court, and won her case. A judge ordered the school to remove the banner. The school claims this banner is part of the schools history, and should not be taken down.
This has brought on a very heated debate over this subject. People are mad, there are death threats against this girl, and even the police presence at the school has been beefed up. She has been threatened on facebook and twitter. One student has been disciplined for one such threat. People are talking about this everywhere. I mean thousands of students have passed by this banner every year. You mean not one Atheist, or some other person that was offended by this banner has come forward in almost 50 years it has been up? I don’t understand if this banner was so bad, and it was a violation of the first amendment, why was allowed to be put up in the first place? But because one student made a fuss, a judge ordered it removed.
The city and school committee are not sure if they are going to appeal it. They say it would be foolish to waste taxpayer’s dollars on a case they are sure to lose. So basically just say “oh well we will just take it down”. Well then why fight it in the first place, what about all the tax payers money wasted up until now? Why didn't they just take it down when someone complained? What’s next, are they going to outlaw The Pledge of Allegiance? Are we going to get rid of “In God We Trust” on the US dollar?
Honestly I don’t know how I feel about this. Is this really a violation against someone’s civil rights? That’s a debate too long to discuss on here. I’m not really sure who’s right or who’s wrong. I guess you could say there is an argument for both sides. I just hope that she was really serious about this and not looking for attention, or some other reason.
I guess I’m just surprised, that the amount of people that are against this. Everyone that I have talked to about it, does not agree with the courts decision. It just goes to show that religion is still very prevalent in today’s society, and that many people still believe in a higher power. When someone questions this belief it still triggers strong emotions in people. That’s what I think this is about, at the core. And when you mess with tradition or with someone religious beliefs, whether you’re an Atheist, a Christian, Muslim or whatever religion you follow. People get really pissed off.
The Cranston school committee have agreed to take the banner down, and have chose not to appeal the courts decision that the banner was unconstitutional. The Cranston school committe, and the city of Cranston has agreed to pay 150,000 dollars to the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU, for thier legal fees. It took 11 hours on a saturday and sunday to remove the wooden banner that has been on the schools gymnnasium for 50 years. the estimated cost of this removal was 2500 dollars in overtime pay.
Jessica Alquist, the student who started this whole controversy, is being threatened with death threats and sexual assault. As a result of all this conroversy Alquiist will recieve a 63,000 dollar scholarship from the American Humanist Association.