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Victory complete

The Cranston, Rhode Island school district that lost it’s court case to pretend that a prayer painted on a public school wall was not a prayer have have decided they will not appeal the ruling. They seem to have realized that fighting against the Constitution on such a crystal clear issue was going to be expensive and fruitless, and have decided to obey the law, ungraciously.

Comments

  1. machintelligence says

    Actually it is a banner hanging on the wall. It will be good to see it gone in any event.

  2. says

    ungraciously

    Supposed Christians are often remarkably poor losers and seem to lack the virtues of grace and humility. (The gospels may be dubious history, but in general they depict a man that today’s tea-party Christians would disdain — and chase from their front steps with their shotguns.)

  3. Rieux says

    It will be interesting to keep tabs on the School Committee going forward—specifically, who gets re-elected and who doesn’t. In Dover, Pennsylvania, after the Kitzmiller case, the school board members who voted to stick to their guns throughout the litigation, and who thus cost the district a million bucks in legal fees when they lost, were subsequently thrown out of office by the voters.

    In this case, there was clearly plenty of (ignorant and stupid) passion from the local community in favor of keeping the banner; will that translate into votes against the five committee members who voted against an appeal?

    The very fact that the final vote was 5-2 is interesting in this context, because one wonders if the two pro-appeal committee members knew before the vote was taken that they couldn’t possibly prevail. If so, they may have thought it was a painless vote: they establish their bona fides with the theocracy set without any real risk that they’d be blamed for costing the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    It wouldn’t be great news if some or all of the “no appeal” voters were defeated at the next election.

  4. raven says

    These tempests in the tea pot religious crackpot conflicts can split communities apart and permanently.

    After Dover, the community was still split and AFAIK, still is.

    Hitchens: Religion poisons everything.

    It’s not just a slogan, it is a reliable and predictive theory and fact. Never fails.

    PS I’d never heard of Cranston, Rhode Island. IIRC, in one article I read, it had been voted one of the worst towns in America to live because of their economy and social problems. And this is before the xian wingnuts crawled out from under their rocks.

    I suppose by now they have earned a permanent place at the bottom of the barrel.

  5. DLC says

    Coming from the middle of Red-State-Ville, I can say that this does not surprise me. They’re addicted to Jesus and they want their fix. But like a junkie who is also a dealer, they want you hooked as well. Self-ruin is not enough for them, they want everyone ruined along with them. Wait… there I go with the Nihilists from the previous thread.

  6. says

    Rieux (#4)

    one wonders if the two pro-appeal committee members knew before the vote was taken that they couldn’t possibly prevail. If so, they may have thought it was a painless vote: they establish their bona fides with the theocracy set without any real risk that they’d be blamed for costing the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    This stuff drives me crazy. Politics is so bizarre.

  7. bradcook says

    Its/it’s.

    Use “its” if it’s a possessive. Use “it’s” if it’s a contraction of “it is.”

  8. R Johnston says

    The very fact that the final vote was 5-2 is interesting in this context

    I was surprised by this. I was pretty sure there would be no appeal, but I figured the vote would be either 4-3, with one of the theocrats taking one for their team after the lawyers told them they couldn’t possibly win, or 7-0, with the theocrats all banding together so that the blame from the crazies was diffused as much as possible.

  9. Pteryxx says

    er, and from JT’s account:

    2-1 in favor of appeal at the moment…

    2-2 now…

    3-2 good guys!

    IT’S OVER!!! WE WON!!!!!!! GO JESSICA!!!!

    The mob is reportedly screaming at the member who cast the fourth vote.

    Lose with grace…just like the banner said.

    Last vote came down on the side of the students. 5-2 is the final tally.

    Pardon, that should’ve been IN my previous comment.

  10. ogremeister says

    Zinc Avenger @ #3:

    Help us to be good sports and smile as we lose as well as when we win…

    Proof enough that it doesn’t belong there; not only religious grounds, but merely on the fact that they largely ignore its words.

  11. Art Vandelay says

    I was there. A couple of takeaways…

    1. Those people are nuts. Completely batshit insane.

    2. In spite of that vote, through their explanations, that school committee really did nothing to quell that mob. One guy did mention that the constitution is in place to protect everyone…not just the majority. The others all took the angle that even though they disagree with Jess, she’s put them in a spot where an appeal would cost them another half million dollars and therefore they can’t sabotage the children’s future. That’s correct of course but they were doing all of this while basically reiterating that the angry mob is completely justified in it’s anger. So they took care of their problem, but I can pretty much guarantee that all of those people in favor of an appeal left that auditorium with their convictions completely intact and probably even stronger.

  12. raven says

    They should fire that prayer banner for nonperformance and complete failure.

    Despite all the decades it hung there, it seems to have done nothing but produce a lot of stupid and vicious wingnuts.

    The xian god either isn’t very powerful or likes stupdid and vicious wingnuts.

  13. mikecallahan says

    It may have been a banner but it was obviously a prayer too. The court agreed. It certainly walks and talks like a prayer. To those atheists who think this fight was too trivial to fight, I say phooey. Ignorance of what the first amendment really means is astonishing. Theocrats should be challenged everywhere they rear their whack-a-mole head. In my opinion there is not enough of these type of cases in our courts. Almost every town in America has an instance of this kind of crap. If only there were more atheists with the courage of Jessica Alquist.

  14. cag says

    Thank you Jessica. I live in Canada, but this domino falling will cause more to fall and all the world’s people will benefit. Your courage will inspire more people to challenge the unwarranted privilege of the superstitious. There are other Cranstons and Bastrops, some who will actually get the message, others who will have to be convinced.

    Good job.

  15. Active Margin says

    @bradcook

    The its/it’s problem happens all the time when I post anything from my iPad. Damn auto-correct! I don’t always catch it.

    Shit happens.

    Regarding the OT, it’s good to see they made the right decision. Too bad it was for the wrong reasons. All the same, good for Jessica!

  16. says

    I’ve seen seeing Hitchens’ “Religion poisons everything” a lot lately and boy is it appropriate here. If they had simply worded that prayer as a school motto it would not only be legal, it would be a pretty good motto. Certainly better than anything the schools I attended had.

  17. Rieux says

    Pteryxx @11 and 12:

    Yes, I was watching the meeting via Twitter and the local paper website in real time, same as JT was. Like (I presume) many other people, I counted the votes and watched it go from 2-1 for appeal to 5-2 against.

    But that doesn’t answer the question I raised. It remains entirely possible that all seven committee members (or just the two pro-appeal ones) walked into that room in the first place all knowing how the vote was going to come out. Members on government boards frequently have private discussions about the matters that are before their boards; in fact, board members sometimes get in big trouble for such discussions under particular circumstances in which open-meeting laws render the discussions illegal.

    All it would have taken in this case is for Lombardi and/or Traficante to have spoken to their fellow committee members in the days, hours, or minutes before the meeting; as soon as they were confident that four of the others would definitely vote against an appeal, they would have known that they were free to vote in favor without risking the district’s finances.

    When the meeting started, we didn’t know how the committee was going to vote—but that certainly doesn’t mean they didn’t.

  18. Pteryxx says

    Rieux:

    When the meeting started, we didn’t know how the committee was going to vote—but that certainly doesn’t mean they didn’t.

    That seems to me like a very big assumption, and then it reduces the entire meeting to posturing. They’d also have to trust each other not to change on the fly or be swayed by the arguments presented, right? Also, if it were just posturing, wouldn’t they have arranged the vote so that the no-appeal majority went first and the Good Folks voted last and denounced them? Besides, isn’t it just as likely that two of the majority five knew THEY were free to vote against because the rest of the board was already decided at 3-2?

    I’m a terrible liar though, so maybe I’m missing something here.

  19. truthspeaker says

    Pteryxx says:
    17 February 2012 at 1:52 pm

    Rieux:

    When the meeting started, we didn’t know how the committee was going to vote—but that certainly doesn’t mean they didn’t.

    That seems to me like a very big assumption, and then it reduces the entire meeting to posturing.

    It’s a meeting of politicians. Of course it’s mostly posturing.

  20. says

    WPRI in Rhode Island can’t stop asking stupid questions in stupid polls.

    Go to http://www.wpri.com/ and halfway down, right-hand side you find:

    Daily Poll

    Do you think the school committe made the right decision?

    Yes, the banner was unconstitutional 40%

    No, they should’ve appealed the decision 59%

  21. unclefrogy says

    let them grumble and whine all they want the decision went in the right direction every step toward freedom and liberty is a good thing regardless of the complaints of the authoritarians.
    In fact I think that the complaints and the whining show just how positive a step it actually is.

    ————————-

    That seems to me like a very big assumption, and then it reduces the entire meeting to posturing.
    ………….
    It’s a meeting of politicians. Of course it’s mostly posturing.
    ——–
    Watch c-span see elected representatives and senators make debate rebuttals and grand statements to empty halls

    uncle frogy

  22. Lou Jost says

    I was also watching the live-blogging, JT’s and the local paper’s simultaneously. Both did a great job. The thing that surprised me was the last vote against the appeal. Even if there had been a prior agreement, that last voter could have saved his or her neck from wingnut reprisals by voting to appeal, since the “no appeal” position had already won 4-2. The last voter didn’t count for anything. Yet this last voter voted against the appeal. Perhaps the politicians recognized that there is a rational majority in that community, and the vocal nutcases we saw at the meeting were not representative. I hope that is true.

  23. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Actually it is a banner hanging on the wall. It will be good to see it gone in any event.

    My impression is that it’s not just “a banner hanging on the wall”. There was talk at the ACLU press conference of painting over it, which makes it sound like part of the wall rather than something hanging on it that could be easily taken down.

  24. Rieux says

    Pteryxx:

    That seems to me like a very big assumption….

    But I’m not assuming anything; I’m merely wondering whether the two appealers had the votes counted before they jumped. Either possibility is entirely plausible.

    and then it reduces the entire meeting to posturing.

    As other commenters have noted, that’s not a strike against the hypothesis at all.

    I gather you haven’t spent much time working within legislative or quasi-legislative bodies. I can assure you from firsthand experience that this kind of pregame nose-counting happens all the time.

    They’d also have to trust each other not to change on the fly or be swayed by the arguments presented, right?

    Yup. The brinksmanship and general game-theoriness can be intense. But in a endlessly rehashed case like this, I doubt that any member would worry too much about his colleagues flipping.

    And we’re only talking about Lombardi and/or Traficante “trusting” that at least four out of the other five would vote as expected. It’s hard to say without knowing the various committee members, but that may have seemed utterly safe.

    Also, if it were just posturing, wouldn’t they have arranged the vote so that the no-appeal majority went first and the Good Folks voted last and denounced them?

    They did! Lombardi made the motion, and Traficante seconded it. That’s two supporters right out front. The “no appeal” members were the last five out of the seven to make their decisions clear.

    And I think you’re over-reading my hypothesis. I’m not suggesting that all seven committee members conspired to reach this vote count in this order. I’m just wondering whether one of the appealers counted noses and concluded that he could make a safe vote to appeal that was all benefit (play to theocrats) and no cost (blame for $500K in appeal fees). None of this requires either appealer to have any particular actual perspective on the wisdom of an appeal; quite possibly they did honestly support it, but purely political considerations can, alas, drive votes in the real political world.

  25. says

    The Cranston, Rhode Island school district that lost it’s court case…
    PZ! Do you allow your students to misuse the apostrophe like that?!

  26. says

    A few points: f

    * From the reports, it seems that there was a private executive session of the committee before the meeting, as the public had to wait for them to finish it.

    * Supporters of the banner seem not to have read the judge’s decision and came up with many versions of “She doesn’t have to look at it,” “It’s not really a prayer,” “It’s not really hurting anyone,” “It’s a Historic Object that we don’t have to remove because it’s old,” “Why don’t we just take ‘Heavenly Father’ and ‘Amen’ off and then it won’t be a prayer,” “No one else objected for all these years,” “Why don’t we just re-write it so it’s not addressed to God and then it won’t be a prayer,” “But it teaches us good moral values and to be good sports,” “She’s oppressing our right to freedom of speech,” “She’s interfering with our freedom of religion,” “We’re the majority and there’s only one of her so what we like stays,” all of which were demolished in the original decision. They seemed to think all these busted excuses would win them an appeal.

    * They proceeded to prove that it is really a prayer and keeping it up would be a religious display by praying, shouting “Under God!” and lamenting the loss of belief these days. We’re all going to hell in a hovercraft. One man even urged the committee not to worry about paying $500K for an appeal because “God will provide.”

    * They have now moved on to fantasies that the students or other individuals can appeal the case even though the deadline has passed and they are not parties to the case.

  27. StevoR says

    @ 24. sarahvenhartly – 17 February 2012 at 2:22 pm :

    Voted – cheers. Latest figures :

    ***

    Do you think the school committe made the right decision?

    Yes, the banner was unconstitutional – 69%
    No, they should’ve appealed the decision – 30%

    ***

    Yes! Victory is ours. As is constitutionally correct.

    [Raised beer salute.]

    Well done & congrats again to Jessica Alquist & her supporters.

  28. Rieux says

    Markita @33:

    From the reports, it seems that there was a private executive session of the committee before the meeting, as the public had to wait for them to finish it.

    Well, bingo.

    It’s possible that Rhode Island’s open-meetings law would have barred the board from discussing the appeal decision in that executive session. If so, I guarantee that the board’s lawyer, who was clearly present, would have worked very hard to prevent them from chatting about it in said session.

    In the event that discussing the decision in executive session isn’t contrary to the applicable open-meeting law, though, in light of Markita’s point I’d bet my condominium that the members knew pretty much what the vote was going to be before they walked out in front of the public audience.

    Lou Jost @27:

    The thing that surprised me was the last vote against the appeal. Even if there had been a prior agreement, that last voter could have saved his or her neck from wingnut reprisals by voting to appeal, since the “no appeal” position had already won 4-2. The last voter didn’t count for anything. Yet this last voter voted against the appeal.

    Yes, that does make that seventh board member’s explanation of her vote seem like the most credible one. She knew she wasn’t casting the deciding vote; she could vote either way without flipping the outcome; and she decided against appealing.

    Of course, given certain necessary preconceptions it’s always possible to tell the cynical-sellout story from either side. A dyed-in-the-wool theocracy supporter could argue that the seventh board member was doing precisely what I hypothesize the first two could have been: casting a “safe” vote against appeal in order to escape the wrath of the terrible Christian-persecuting atheists who have taken Cranston over.

    I think government is endlessly fascinating, whether its decisions are commendable, disgusting, or somewhere in between.

  29. says

    I was there. The executive meeting before the public meeting was about an hour long. The “banner” is not that, it is most properly a mural. Some committee members were careful to call it a mural, others not.
    There were repeated calls by people speaking on both sides for Ahlquist to be treated with respect and without bullying. The main object of hatred at this meeting was not Ahlquist but the ACLU. There seemed to be about as many speakers against making an appeal as for. With at most one exception, all the crazy talk was by supporters of appeal.

  30. dcg1 says

    It would appear that some American atheists, are so mentally weak and pathetic that the existence of a historical artifact like the “Cranston Prayer”, has caused them major psychological trauma.

    Its existence is so traumatic, that it has prompted them to take legal action.

    This legal action has achieved two things: first it has deprived this particular education board of funds for education. Second, it has again marked athiests everywhere, with the taint of politically correct lunacy.

    Thanks a lot guys, this sort of attitude does us no favours and taints the rest of us by association.

    I live in the UK. In close proximity to Winchester Cathedral.
    The cathedral is a religous building, its construction commenced in 1097 A.D.

    The building is a quite magnificent architectural structure. Despite being an atheist, I derive much enjoyment from wandering around the building and its environs. Does its existence offend my atheistic beliefs? NO. Would I like it to be bulldozed or removed because it offends my atheistic sensibilities? NO. Its part of my cultural heritage. I’ve got a life and can live with the trauma.

    If I can live with the trauma caused by the existence of this great building. I suggest that everyone that wants to see the “Cranston Prayer ” removed should Fuck Off.

    To my mind, being an athiest means not believing in a higher being or creator. It doesn’t mean believing in fascism or totalitarianism.

  31. Aratina Cage says

    @dcg1

    I suggest that everyone that wants to see the “Cranston Prayer ” removed should Fuck Off.

    No, you Fuck Off!

    Jessica did the right thing. There are too many instances of religion encroaching on secular spaces in disobeyance of the foundational law of the USA. The Cranston prayer banner was one of them, and now that wrong has been righted.

  32. raven says

    dumb troll:

    I live in the UK. In close proximity to Winchester Cathedral.
    The cathedral is a religous building, its construction commenced in 1097 A.D.

    You are comparing a cathedral build in 1097 with a mural a few decades old. Really? It wasn’t much of a historical artifact. It was also a total failure given the demonstrated craziness of the frothing at the mouth xians who showed up.

    I don’t believe you are an atheist. If you reallyt are, please, please, find the ugliest xian cult possible and join it. You are making us look bad. Since you are dumb, try the Jehovahs Witlessness’s or the Mormons.

  33. dcg1 says

    Raven
    I am an athiest. The principle is the same. Pathetic whining and intolerance is what makes us look bad.

    Have a look at this guys comments regardng american athiest’s attacks on nativity displays. I completely agree with him. They’re pathetic. http://patcondell.net/index.html

  34. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    Thanks a lot guys, this sort of attitude does us no favours and taints the rest of us by association.

    This non-historical mural violates the Constitution of the United States of America. The set of laws upon which this democracy is based. Ignoring it would have been a tacet admission that, when it comes to Christians, the law of the land is mutable.

    How big does something have to be so that it can be pursued without making you look bad? (That is not a rhetorical question. I really do want an answer.)

    The cathedral is a religous building, its construction commenced in 1097 A.D.

    And, as you say, it is a church building. As in, religion.

    Its part of my cultural heritage. I’ve got a life and can live with the trauma.

    And Winchester Cathedral is an important part of the cultural heritage of the western world. A mural, painted on a wall, in 1963, in a public school, and in a nation in which there is no established church and the government cannot, legally, endorse any religion, is not a cultural icon. It is an artifact of the anti-communist idiocy of the 1950s and 1960s, coupled with protest against the SCOTUS decision which ended school-led prayer.

    Public schools are part of the government (in this case, local). All levels of government must follow the US COnstitution.

    If I can live with the trauma caused by the existence of this great building.

    Which is, as you pointed out, over 900 years old, not 49 years old.

    I suggest that everyone that wants to see the “Cranston Prayer ” removed should Fuck Off.

    What is your problem with expecting the government to follow its own laws?

    To my mind, being an athiest means not believing in a higher being or creator.

    I agree.

    It doesn’t mean believing in fascism or totalitarianism.

    One of the facets of authoritarianism, whether fascism or any other form of totalitarianism, is that the government cannot break the law. Or, if it does, there is no possible way for a citizen to force the government to obey the law. Expecting government to obey the law is a very liberal, and a very non-authoritarian idea. Fighting, in courts, when any level of government breaks the law is the absolute opposite of fascism, communism, or any other form of totalitiariasm.

    And I, on behalf of all in the United States, apologize for standing up for the rule of law.

  35. Aratina Cage says

    I note that you don’t address the main thrust of my argument.

    To paraphrase Dawkins, your argument is stupid and wrong! Fuck Off!!!

  36. Ogvorbis: Now With 98% Less Intellectual Curiousity! says

    Have a look at this guys comments regardng american athiest’s attacks on nativity displays. I completely agree with him. They’re pathetic.

    Yeah. Asking government to obey the law really is pathetic.

  37. Ze Madmax says

    dcg1 @ #39:

    It would appear that some American atheists, are so mentally weak and pathetic that the existence of a historical artifact like the “Cranston Prayer”, has caused them major psychological trauma.

    Its existence is so traumatic, that it has prompted them to take legal action.

    Except that the main argument against the banner is not that it was causing “major psychological trauma” but rather that it was illegal. As in, against the law. Specifically, against the Establishment Clause, which determines the separation of church and state in the United States.

    This legal action has achieved two things: first it has deprived this particular education board of funds for education. Second, it has again marked athiests everywhere, with the taint of politically correct lunacy.

    The school board had the option to remove the religious wording from the banner in order to address the breach of the Establishment Clause. They were against it. Only after all other options were exhausted (largely due to the school board being unwilling to cooperate) did legal action take place.

    Thanks a lot guys, this sort of attitude does us no favours and taints the rest of us by association.

    Quite the opposite. The courage, passion and commitment to civic duty demonstrated by Jessica Ahlquist is a brilliant example of what all atheists (and indeed, all citizens of any democracy) ought to be like.

    Your petty whine, on the other hand, serves little purpose other than to demonstrate that even atheists can say stupid things.

    I live in the UK. In close proximity to Winchester Cathedral.
    The cathedral is a religous building, its construction commenced in 1097 A.D.

    The building is a quite magnificent architectural structure. Despite being an atheist, I derive much enjoyment from wandering around the building and its environs. Does its existence offend my atheistic beliefs? NO. Would I like it to be bulldozed or removed because it offends my atheistic sensibilities? NO. Its part of my cultural heritage. I’ve got a life and can live with the trauma.

    The prayer banner was in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. This cathedral (I assume) does not violate the law in any way.

    While some atheists may be offended by the mere existence of religious art and architecture, these imaginary offense-prone atheists have nothing to do with Jessica Ahlquist. She acted because (again) the prayer banner was illegal. The mere fact that was displayed in a public institution means that it was a breach of Constitutional law and several decades of judicial decisions.

    And if you don’t find the constant encroachment of religion into the public sphere offensive, then good for you. Being oblivious to these issues must do wonders for your blood pressure.

    If I can live with the trauma caused by the existence of this great building. I suggest that everyone that wants to see the “Cranston Prayer ” removed should Fuck Off.

    If you can live with the “trauma” caused by a great building, surely you can also live with the “trauma” of people fighting to uphold the law in a country that is not your own. If not, heed your own advice and FUCK OFF.

    To my mind, being an athiest means not believing in a higher being or creator. It doesn’t mean believing in fascism or totalitarianism.

    Upholding a Constitutional provision designed to protect religious minorities (including atheists!) against the power of the majority is the exact opposite of totalitarianism.

    On the other hand, people who attempt to silence those who fight for minority rights sound like the kind of weasels that allow totalitarianism to emerge.

  38. says

    dcg1,

    fuck off. People like you are the reason instituionalised religion in largely secularised Europe has managed to cling to its grotesquely disproportionate privileges.