A Solution to the Rhode Island School Prayer Controversy
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Many people are upset about the recent news that a 4-foot by 8-foot “School Prayer Banner” hanging in a Rhode Island public high school since 1963 must come down. On January 12, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lagueux ruled that the banner hanging in Cranston High School West is unconstitutional. The judge wrote, "No amount of debate can make the School Prayer anything other than a prayer."

Local resident are up in arms over the ruling and are urging the school district to appeal the ruling. In the meantime, Jessica Ahlquist, the 16-year-old atheist who initiated the action to have the banner removed, is reportedly receiving all kinds of threats and vitriol. She told one reporter, "A lot of people are saying that they hope I get beat up. . . .That they would hurt me physically in school if they could. It is hurtful. It kind of disturbed me. It's mostly hurtful when it comes from students in the school."

It is ironic that this backlash directed at Jessica comes from students whose school motto is “A place where we treat people like we would like people to treat us.” And if that weren’t enough, the prayer on the banner that the students and community are trying to protect asks God to help them be kind, helpful, good sports even when they lose, and to conduct themselves so as to bring credit to their school. It reads:

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.

Amen

I recommend that the students of Cranston High School West meditate on the words of the very prayer they are so determined to preserve. It’s time for the students to take the prayer down from the gymnasium wall where it has been collecting dust, and actually recite it daily.

How can they do that, you may ask?

Well, Rhode Island has a law requiring a daily moment of silent meditation. It reads as follows:

16-12-3.1 Period of silent meditation. -- At the opening of every school day in all grades in all public schools the teacher in charge of the room in which each class is held shall announce that a period of silence not to exceed one minute in duration shall be observed for meditation, and during this period silence shall be maintained and no activities engaged in.”

I recommend that the school’s Christian club print the “School Prayer” on a small card and distribute it to every student on campus. The club can then encourage students to silently read the card every day during the mandatory period of silent meditation.

If the school doesn’t have a Christian club, I recommend they start one immediately. Under the Equal Access Act, if the school has any non-curricular clubs, it cannot deny a Christian club from starting -- even if the club’s sole purpose is to distribute the “prayer cards.” Imagine the good that could result if even half of the 1,750 students at Cranston High started their day reading the prayer card.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the good students of Cranston High to do what the makers of the banner intended 50 years ago -- actually pray the prayer. Symbolism has its place. But given the choice between symbolism and substance, I’ll take substance every time.

(Eric Buehrer is the president of Gateways to Better Education and an occasional blogger at the BreakPoint Blog.)


Comments:

Prayer Banner
I continue to thank God for Eric's continued watchfulness throughout our country in pointing out the breakdown of our society. I am reminded of a comment by W. Somerset Maugham: "Any nation that thinks more of its ease and comfort(political correctness) than its freedom will soon lose its freedom; and the ironical thing about it is that it will lose its ease and comfort too."
David P,

I fail to see how Eric's article is promoting an exiting of the public arena as your comment implies. Rather, he's encouraging the students to take action in the very epicenter of the controversy.
RI Prayer Banner
Eric, how God loves you to have given you such a practical, wonderful solution for such a time as this. Great idea! Let's remember to pray for Jessica's salvation. Thank God HE loves us all. Pray for the students' receptiveness to this "card".
RI Prayer
Thank you, Eric for a balanced response and a practical application for the students at this school. Seeing the prayer put into action is most important.
Rhode Island banner controversy
Eric,
I agree with you that substance be chosen over symbolism in the controversy of the prayer banner in Rhode Island's high school. Taking a look at the deeper purpose behind God's teaching and following that teaching is far better than fighting to "collect dust" on a banner that is not representing sincere prayer.
Prayer Banner
You are right Eric. We will be known by our friut and if we spread hatred, what kind of witness is that?
Prayer Banner
Awesome idea Eric! And then when they find a way to deny the kids their Christian Club we can come back to this blog and pontificate on how the "noble" thing for a Christian to do is to meekly surrender and go home and meditate silently in our basements. Afterall, we don't want to confront the culture and make a stand for Christ now do we? Wake up! The Community needs to take a stand by flooding the school board meetings. No one is forced to pray that prayer. The Atheist student doesn't have to look at it if she doesn't want to.
RI Prayer
Eric, this is a stellar, balanced look at the issue. I hope the right Christian students at CHS read it and take it to heart. Thanks for articulating the proper perspective.
Prayer Banner
Right On! Distribute the prayer on cards through a Christian club. The banner wasn't doing any good anyway. And stop the persecution of the atheist.
RI Prayer Controversy
Great job Eric!

We've got to learn how to bring the people to the Word of God, not just bring the Word of God to the people. As "the salt of earth", Christians should cause non-Christians to be thirsty to drink living water from our lives.




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