Man Who Wrote Controversial Prayer Banner Lashes Out Against Atheist, Judge

The author of the controversial prayer banner at Cranston High School West is speaking out against Jessica Ahlquist and all those who have supported the decision to remove the banner from the school's auditorium.

David A. Bradley from Stonington, Conn., recently wrote a letter to the editor at The Hartford Courant condemning the online news publication for writing an article "dignifying" a scholarship given to the 16-year-old student by fellow atheists and other supporters.

Blogger Hemant Mehta started the campaign on his Friendly Atheist website to raise money for Ahlquist whom he believed stood up for her beliefs with "class and style" despite opposition and threats from critics. The group collected more than $40,000.

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After reading an article about the fundraising campaign on the Connecticut news site, Bradley, the writer of the prayer banner gifted to the school in 1963 by the graduating class, said, "I can't believe The Courant would dignify such an award by such a group and to such a person with a piece on its pages."

Ahlquist made headlines in 2010 when she challenged the prayer banner on display at her school's auditorium, calling it unconstitutional and in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

The prayer began with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ended with "Amen."

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit on behalf of Ahlquist and her father in April 2011, eventually winning the case. The school was ordered to remove the banner and pay legal fees amounting to more than $150,000.

"The R.I. judge's ruling in this case and the subsequent headlines fly in the face of all that is decent and moral about the United States and its Constitution," Bradley said.

"Jessica was duped by her ACLU-leaning father and uncle into bringing suit against the city of Cranston over the display of a school prayer that I wrote in 1960."

The writer of the banner claimed that Ahlquist was not "old enough to know the meaning of atheism" and that she was "used and permanently injured by powers and ideologies in the name of secular liberal progressivism," which she couldn't possibly understand at her "tender age."

Mehta, however, responded saying that Ahlquist was not duped by anyone nor was she a pawn of the ACLU.

"This was a decision she brought to their attention, not the other way around," he wrote on his blog.

Ahlquist stated on her own website that she became an atheist at a very young age and that even someone as young as herself had seen "frequent and flagrant disregard for our state's history and even the law."

Bradley argued that as the author of the "moral and upstanding school prayer in question," he should be entitled to "ten or a hundred times as much money as Jessica has been awarded for having torn it down and repudiated the decency and morality in our schools."

"Where are my donors?" he concluded.

But the only money Mehta believed Bradley should be concerned about was the large amount of legal fees owed by the district, which decided not to pursue an appeal due to their "fiscal condition."

"If he wants to help pay the $150,000+ in legal fees ... I'm sure they'd appreciate his help, considering he's part of the reason they got into this mess in the first place."

School officials confirmed last week that the controversial prayer banner was taken down on March 3 and placed in an undisclosed location to the outrage of many in the community who cherished the prayer's history and significance.

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