Lawsuit Filed to Remove Prayer Banner From Rhode Island High School

The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking to remove a prayer banner from Cranston High School West, located in the state of Rhode Island.

The banner's prayer begins with “Our Heavenly Father,” and ends with “Amen,” and requests assistance from God to aid the students of the school in their behavior and academics.

Jessica Ahlquist, an atheist who attends the school, was offended by the banner’s religious language.

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The ACLU followed up with a lawsuit based on Ahlquist’s complaint, and are asking a federal judge to stop the city from displaying the Christian prayer in the high school.

The 8-foot high mural robs Jessica Ahlquist of her rights under the First and 14th Amendments, attorneys Lynette Labinger and Thomas Bender are claiming, and a suit has been filed in a brief on Friday in preparation for an Oct. 13 court hearing.

The ACLU asked the school to remove the banner last year after a parent complained, but a vote taken by school officials kept it in the school.

The ACLU sued the city for displaying a mural that only promotes Christianity.

The banner has been displayed since the early 1960s.

School officials “decided not to erase history for the sake of political correctness,” says attorneys Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr., Joseph V. Cavanagh III, Eric C. Rassbach, Lori H. Windham, Anthony A. Cipriano and Christopher M. Rawson in a brief filed Friday.

The attorneys stated that the school wants to maintain its history and tradition.

The banner was created around 50 years ago along with the school’s mascot and creed.

The ACLU argues in a 63-page memo accompanying the request for an injunction that the banner aims to promote student prayer as part of the educational experience and tradition, which they claim is in direct violation of the First Amendment’s “Establishment Clause.”

The lawyers on the defense side claim that the school established its own traditions and identifying features with the banner.

A similar banner was removed from Hugh B. Bain Middle School after being there for 70 years due to the ACLU filing a lawsuit against it.

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