July 21, 2010

Winging a "Prayer"

Marc Comtois

The banner has been on display at Cranston West High School since 1958. On it is a simple, innocuous prayer.

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.
It wasn't a problem until someone took offense--enter the ACLU:
Steven Brown, executive director of the local ACLU, said she “was extremely concerned and troubled … upon observing a display of a prayer on the wall.”....Brown said the banner violates the First Amendment and his letter asks the committee to remove it, along with anything similar that might be displayed in other Cranston schools.

“I understand that this prayer may have been posted in the auditorium for a long time,” said Brown. “However, the crucial protections of the Bill of Rights have been around even longer.”

Brown cited Supreme Court decisions upholding the separation of church and state and referred to the district’s policy which states that “The proper setting for religious observance is the home and the place of worship.”

Familiar argument, heard it before. The hypersensitivity to this stuff is ridiculous, but, as Brown says, it's been pretty much "established" that this is a no-go (agree or not). So it looks like the Cranston School Committee is resigned to remove the banner because doing so would lighten the mantle of persecution imposed upon any non-believers forced to casually glance at the banner from time to time while attending a function in the auditorium--and it costs a lot less than a lawsuit. However, School Committee Chair Michael Traficante did offer some thoughts:
School Committee Chairman Michael A. Traficante said he has been to the auditorium many times but has never noticed the prayer on the wall...Traficante said this is the first complaint that he’s aware of concerning the banner.

“If it’s a violation of the First Amendment, we have no choice but to remove it,” he said, but suggested that the language could be changed.

“It doesn’t need to say Heavenly Father,” Traficante said.

To this, Brown chuckled.

“A prayer is a prayer,” he said. “I’m not quite sure how one changes the words of a prayer.”

Well, how about like this, Mr. Brown?
We 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,
To be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
To learn the value of true friendship,
To always conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
That wasn't too hard.

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Unconstitutional, but as an atheist I couldn't care less about it because it doesn't force me to do anything I don't want to do.

I would like my tax dollars back from the school because I have never used its services, but that has nothing to do with the banner one way or the other. Ironic that if we simply privatized schools then all of these "freedom of expression" issues that liberals and progressives get so up in arms over would be resolved.

Posted by: Dan at July 21, 2010 3:06 PM

Clarence Darrow said it. Freedom is one of those things: in order to have enough, you have to have too much. This may seem de minimis, but where else do you draw the line?

Look, it may not actually be offending anyone (though that is a real maybe). But it's unconstitutional. Why is the ACLU the bad guy for enforcing what is unquestionably the law?

No prayer in schools. How hard is that? And frankly, why does anyone care? Get your prayers in church, in the home, on the weekends with your friends. Get your prayers on your own time. No one needs the school to offer them prayers.

Posted by: Joe at July 21, 2010 3:45 PM

Anyone who reads that prayer, and has a problem with it - has major league problems of their own.
I envision real freaks, losers, perverts, stalkers, child porn types, that have no life. They are obvious social deviants who should probably be under surveillance.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at July 21, 2010 4:01 PM

It's not like those who need their "heavenly fathers " and "amen"s can't get it at their places of worship tax free all over Cranston. Christ there's two Catholic Churchs who are side by each on Cranston St....St.Anne's and St. Mary's. The question ought to be why is it acceptable to subject the rest of us to these religious beliefs in public buildings.
Mike Cappelli I'm disapointed ...no "pigs" mentioned.

Posted by: Phil at July 21, 2010 8:59 PM

There is nothing unconstitutional about the banner.

It neither violates the establishment clause (clearly no state religion has been established because of its display for 52 years); nor does it violate the free exercise clause (in fact, it kind of celebrates the free exercise clause!). It's actually very American, and very very constitutional!

Why are most Cranston politicians completely gonadless? "It doesn't need to say Heavenly Father"??? Traf freakin' caves to the ACLU and one unhappy atheist. Why can't we have just one more guy like Laffey who'd fight for the people. He's the only one who ever had any guts and I doubt RI will ever see another like him.

Posted by: George at July 21, 2010 11:24 PM

The reason why we "can't have one more guy like Laffey" is because we already had one who was tried and found wanting.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at July 22, 2010 8:27 AM

Nothing wrong with a compromise here - I find Brown's position a little extreme. Nothing wrong with the sentiments expressed in the body of the prayer.
I was raised in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and having attended Catholic schools for 13 years, I grew up around this stuff. Never a problem for me.
But something tells me the people who defend this prayer so fervently would FREAK if it started "Dear Yahweh," or "Dear Allah," or "Dear Wicca." Cranston Catholics have to admit that freedom OF religion applies to ALL religions. But if they want to blow taxpayers' money...

Posted by: rhody at July 22, 2010 10:35 AM

Rhody, you further the point. "Heavenly Father" covers most legitimate religious beliefs.

You could say it only leaves out pagans and atheists. So what?

Posted by: George at July 22, 2010 1:00 PM

OTL, what do you think of the prayer?

Posted by: George at July 22, 2010 1:02 PM

What do I think of the prayer? I think it's insipid, but that is beside the point. What difference does it make what I think of any prayer?

Based upon Matthew 23, here is Jesus' own words on people who make public prayers:

4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,

6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,

7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.

8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

How do you interpret Matthew 23:4-8 quoted above?

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at July 22, 2010 9:15 PM

I don't want to get into the same old tiresome debate with OTL and Phil about how the republic is threatened by some banner that's been hanging arouns a school auditorium for decades.
What is more important is the incessant cockroach looking for crumbs behavior of Steven Brown,because this bug eyed demon seeks out any vestige of reference to a higher power on public property for destruction.
He uses professionally offended people in this chicanery.
Some years back it was a woman whose initials are G.O.This person ran around finding things that offended her and reporting back to Brown,whereupon he'd file an action.
A certain "Dr"Weissman(social work professor at RIC) who now is president of the RI ACLU along with his wife are two other professional troublemakers and a**hole buddies with Brown.They aggressively seek and and try to eradicate anything traditional and decent.
Not being a follower of religious doctrine,I am tempted to believe there is some sort of evil force that brings us people like this.It's not like I believe in Satan or something,but it's hard to explain this socially destructive zeal.
I'm also wondering why,just because ONE damn person is offended,everything has to be done to satisfy them.There is no right not to be offended.
Anyone who's followed Brown and his activities can't help but notice an unhealthy cackling glee on the creature's face when he discovers some new piece of tradition he can erase.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 26, 2010 9:46 AM

It never ceases to amaze me how people like OTL and Nancy Green will start spouting scripture to make their points.
Catch me doing that.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 26, 2010 9:49 AM
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