I received this letter in the comments section of the student response to "Falcon Forever", and am printing it as a letter because I feel it sums up the entire issue of the Cranston (RI) High School West prayer banner controversy. Enjoy!
P.S. Of all the comments and letters I have received on this matter, the overwhelming majority have been against keeping the banner.
Never felt moved to comment, although I love your work on this blog, until I followed your coverage of the "Cranston prayer banner" story. I have my own thoughts on the subject, and unless you decide that you've devoted enough time to the topic and want to move on (which I've seen cats do quite easily, which is why I love them so much), you have my permission to post this as a separate letter as well.
I've seen a lot of people commenting on the story suggest that Jessica could have just ignored the banner, but it doesn't change the fact that it is completely unconstitutional to have any prayer in a public school, regardless of what religion it promotes. I don't think it's about whether or not she thought that the Christian underground was out to convert her, or if she hated organized religion and all its manifestations. I believe she just thought it was illegal to have there. If alumni of an inner city school gifted a block of crack to their alma mater, it would be illegal for the school to have it, and no one would disagree. She thought that this was illegal for the school to possess/display as well. There seems to be this idea that she was out to destroy baby Jesus and succeeded, which is missing the point. She was pointing out a technicality, and the circuit judge agreed. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.
One complainant mentioned on Facebook: "The prayer is never recited; no one even knows the damn thing, except that it's up on the [expletive deleted] wall; and no one ever sees the wall, 'cause no one is ever in the [expletive deleted] auditorium, and when they are there, the [expletive deleted] lights are off!" If that is the case, then why make a big deal about it being taken down? She made her case, and legally she won, and if no one has ever noticed the thing before, then they shouldn't have any problems with it not being there.
Finally, a random thought from my past: When I was in the sixth grade, after the Pledge of Allegiance, we would recite what was called a "Class Code" every morning, and I still remember it by heart: "As sixth graders, we must be respectful of each other, always strive to do our very best work, cooperate as a class, treat everyone as we would like to be treated, and be an excellent example for the rest of the school." It's no Our Father, for sure, but it's a valid statement, perfectly complete and respectable with no religious inclusions whatsoever, unless you want to count the Golden Rule, which to be frank was repeated by many great minds before, during, and after the time of Christ. Without the appeal to a "Heavenly Father" and the "Amen" closing, I'm sure even Jessica herself wouldn't see a problem with a "class code" or "code of ethics" or whatever you want to call it based on the remaining words:
"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."
That's beautiful! And it doesn't offend anyone. I suspect the only reason Cranston West didn't make such a change when public prayer was no longer allowed in schools is because, based on the complainant's words, successive administrations have forgotten the prayer was ever there. And you know what they say about forgetting: "If you forget something, invariably it'll come back to bite you in the behind." That's what I think happened here.
Tazi here again! Perhaps compromise can rule the day, and the opening and closing of this prayer/creed/code can simply be painted over so as to read as a School Code, as has been suggested by others. Cats don't usually believe in compromise - after all, whatever we want we consider ours - but we hate to see humans argue (the noise disturbs our inner peace). Thank you for sharing!
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.