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Controversy Over School Banner

Updated on September 4, 2012

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.


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    • profile image

      Thomas 5 years ago

      Most people have the wrong understanding of the separation issue. They think it means a person can't express spiritual matters on state property. But I ask you to be a bit more objective here. If the state can tell you where you CAN'T express your faith, then where is the separation?

      The separation issue actually means the state can't allow any ONE spiritual belief to be expressed on state property. Therefore, the state must allow ALL spiritual beliefs to be expressed.

    • markmic36 profile image

      Mick Smith 5 years ago from Warwick, RI

      I agree. This banner has been up 50 years. Not one student Or even one adult or parent has complained about till now. I guess what I think is, that there is someone else behind this, besides one student, maybe even the school committee itself. It just seems fishy to me.

    • markmic36 profile image

      Mick Smith 5 years ago from Warwick, RI

      Oh yeah she has a rich daddy behind her, paying for lawyers/legal fees. they definatly had an influence on the whole thing.

    • RJ68 profile image

      RJ68 5 years ago from Memphis

      Seeker7 I think you stated it well. What are you offending really the fact that you don't serve God, ok? No one is asking the student to be removed from the school because her beliefs are different. To me it is always the Atheist that complains because their belief system is different. But aren't Christians tolerant of them as well. It is a banner upon which that school has had for decades. Really! Really it offends who...Then don't damn well look at it.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      A very interesting hub here!

      I think what confuses me totally and pisses me off about some in society is their lack of tolerance for others and their beliefs. I often think at times that we are reverting back to the 'witch hunting' days! Now I'm not referring to either people who believe or people who don't. I'm referring to certain sections of society that are so, supposedly, easily offended by so much, that it's a wonder they don't spend their whole lives in court or campaigning against something or someone! As I said, I'm not for one side or the other. However, it does seem to me that there is a slide towards digging at folks who have beliefs rather than those who don't. We've already had employees - in the UK - told to take off crosses/crucifixes as neck chains incase they 'offend' anyone? Offend who? That's the thing that pisses me off, 'they' never actually state the who's or what's that are going to be offended!

      But back to the hub - so for one student a banner gets taken down? What I'd like to know is did this student think this up on her own or does she have pushy, know-all parents behind this?