My brother was at the Cranston school board meeting last night. He told me he thought the day was really won by a great Irish guy named Dan McCarthy
who got up early in the comment session and said “I went to Catholic schools, where I said the rosary every day. I also said it at home, with my father. In fact, I said it today with a dying friend. So I’m a practicing Catholic.
“On the other hand, my great grandfather came here because he was not allowed to own the land he farmed, in Ireland. Because he was a Catholic. In a prod country.
He sat down, and the atmosphere in the room changed. The appeal nuts were no longer whooping and hollering and, when they did resume, a lot of the spirit had gone out of them.
He had also contacted the Rhode Island chapter of Progessive Democrats of America in support of their statement (I suspect my brother wrote it, though I haven’t confirmed that):
Rhode IslanChapter of
Progressive Democrats oAmerica
The Rhode Island Chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America passed a resolution at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Rochambeau Library on 6 February 2012 against the display of a prayer on the wall of the auditorium of Cranston West High School.
RIPDA took this action in defense of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which reads in its entirety: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It is worth noting that Congress chose in 1791 to open the enumeration of fundamental rights to be enjoyed by all [free] citizens of the new nation with the right to be free of any state-sponsored religion. Most of them were pious church-goers; their brief was in no sense against the exercise of religion. They prohibited rather any intervention whatsoever, for or against, by their new state in the religious realm. They could not have made their prohibition more absolute; RIPDA is arguing for respecting their manifest intent.
These men had just come through the violence of their own war for independence, but they knew the power of religious conviction to spawn conflicts of an intensity we have yet to outgrow. Europe had been convulsed by religious conflict for centuries: the intensity of the conflict can be gauged by their renewal in Sarajevo and Bosnia twenty years ago, but the new Americans remembered equally bloody wars within their parents’ lifetimes. They were determined not to allow them to begin again. So are we.
My brother is a Montaigne scholar. Montaigne knew a very great deal about Europe’s convulsions under religious conflict.