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Cranston will fight to keep ‘prayer banner’

March 8, 2011

The Cranston school committee voted 4-3 in favor of keeping a banner at Cranston West High School and at a local middle school that opponents call unconstitutional. The banner, which urges students and teachers to do their best, begins with the phrase “our heavenly father,” and ends with the word “Amen.”

Cranston school officials say their vote reflects a widespread feeling in the community that that banner is part of their school tradition and promotes a positive message. The school board points out that students are no longer required to recite the words on the sign.

The ACLU says it is disappointed by the board’s decision and plans to move forward with a federal lawsuit. Steve Brown from the organization’s local chapter says the courts have been clear in prior cases that public schools cannot promote religion. 

Asked whether they are concerned about the cost of a protracted legal battle, Cranston school officials say they are hoping to find an attorney who will represent them on a pro bono basis. School Committee Chairwoman Andrea Iannazzi says she is willing to fight any litigation required to keep the banner.

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