In a lawsuit filed by a 16-year old Rhode Island girl, a federal judge has ruled that a prayer that has been in Cranston High School West for 49 years had to be covered.
Atheist Jessica Ahlquist has been battling since 2010 to get an 8-foot banner removed from her high school auditorium. It contains a prayer that a student wrote in 1963.
The teenager has been dealing with consequences from Cranston, a highly Roman Catholic city. She has been receiving threats from social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, and had been receiving police escorts to classes. She had planned to take time off from school, but according to WPRO News, Ahlquist posted on Twitter that she plans to graduate from Cranston High School West in 2013.
The New York Times reported that the prayer began, “Our Heavenly Father,” the prayer begins, “grant us each day the desire to do our best, to grow mentally and morally as well as physically, to be kind and helpful,” and ended with “Amen.” Ahlquist said, “It seemed like it was saying, every time I saw it, ‘You don’t belong here.’ The eight-foot prayer has been covered with a tarp since the decision.
According to ABA Journal, a state representative called Jessica “an evil little thing” on a talk radio show, and three florists refused to deliver her roses sent from national atheist group Freedom From Religion Foundation.
WPRI.com reported that the Cranston School Committee had a budget meeting scheduled on Wednesday, but the debate quickly turned to the banner. Police had to be called to contain the crowd. And Cranston School Committee member Frank Lombardi said he is beginning to receive threatening e-mails.
Meanwhile, Ahlquist started a Facebook group that calls for the banner's removal. The group currently has over 5,000 members.