Rhode Island Student Wins Prayer Banner Lawsuit

The Cranston (R.I.) School Committee has decided not to appeal a court decision ordering the removal of a prayer banner at Cranston High School West.

The committee voted 5-2 on Feb. 16 not to continue the legal fight, mostly because of financial concerns. As the committee was informed, a prolonged battle in court would be very costly.

Student Jessica Ahlquist, represented by the Rhode Island ACLU, sued the school district over an eight-foot prayer banner that has hung in her school’s auditorium since 1963. A federal judge ruled that the school must remove the display.

Ahlquist’s attorneys have asked for $173,000 in legal fees, and Joseph Cavanagh Jr., a lawyer who represented the city, said if Ahlquist v. City of Cranston went all the way to the Supreme Court it could cost an additional $500,000 in legal fees, according to the Associated Press.

“You will be wasting time and incredible resources,” resident Rosemary Tregar said at a forum before the committee vote. “Half a million dollars? How dare you.”

At least one student did not see the wisdom of this decision.

“We have to appeal for the students of Cranston High School West, and we have to appeal for our humanity,” said student David Sears Jr.

For her efforts, Ahlquist had been subjected to vicious scorn by some in her community, including threats of physical harm.