And in the end, who pays?

The school board at Cranston RI racked up a $150,000 legal bill in their foolhardy attempt to defend the blatantly unconstitutional prayer banner in the Cranston High School. And now they’ve decided it’s unfair to expect them to pay the whole thing. Their solution? Split the bill with the taxpayers, 50/50. [UPDATE: A commenter informs me that I’ve got it exactly backwards: the city has already paid, and the school board is volunteering to pick up half of the tab. That’s marginally better, but still, that’s $75,000 that could have been spent on educating students, and it’s going to pay off a very foolishly-incurred debt instead.]

The vote was unanimous in favor of the proposed fee split proposal submitted by School Supt. Peter L. Nero.

The school district will pay $75,000 toward the legal fees owed the ACLU for representing Cranston High School West student Jessica Ahlquist, 16, in a challenge to the constitutionality of a prayer banner which used to hang in the school’s auditorium.

Yeah, I know, it’s taxpayer money either way. But still, why should the general public (including atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians) get stuck paying for Christian evangelism efforts? Give that bill to the local churches and let them split it up. They’re the ones who were driving the original push for Christian supremacy in the public schools. Let them pay their own damn bills.


  1. grumpyoldfart says

    I’ll bet the School doesn’t pay even half the money. The bill will be presented each year, and the board will ignore it. Later the debt will be forgiven and the general public will never know.

    • says


      The city already paid the ACLU. It wasn’t the school board asking the city to chip in, but the opposite: “The city has already paid the bill. Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung said that the city paid the bill recently and is hoping the school department pays back the city some of the money.” ( )


      Since both the city and school committee of Cranston were named defendants in this suit, it makes sense that they should split this debt.

      If you want to bill those really responsible for this debt, you should not bill local churches, but committee members Frank Lombardi, Michael Traficante, Andrea Ianazzi, and Paula MacFarland.

      Sure, a mob of angry citizens demanded they fight against our First Amendment, but those four cast the actual votes. That responsibility was theirs. Even when their schools had already cut music programs, sport programs, and gifted programs, they arrogantly decided to spend tax dollars serving Christianity rather than serving Cranston children.

      And Cranston pays for their mismanagement.

      • N. Nescio says

        Personally I think the residents of Cranston who are not rabid Christians should be up in arms about this, railing against the local government for violating their religious freedom.

        Why should everybody have to foot the bill for the school board’s tilt at the windmills, when it was motivated by specifically religious reasons?

  2. pipenta says

    Ah, whoever ends up paying for it, the public discussion of it in blogs and forums and everywhere should be LONG and LOUD. The taxpayers will foot the bill, but the idiots who put their personal religious beliefs ahead of their civic responsibilities should be made to feel the sting.

    I hope, after the dust settles, that they will not be able get elected to anything ever again.

  3. Brownian says

    Let them pay their own damn bills.

    “Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win.”

    Personal responsibility is what Christianity teaches you should advocate other people take.

  4. lordshipmayhem says

    The only problem with letting the churches pay, is the money they get is a tax deduction – meaning that the non-donors get to pay more taxes to make up the shortfall caused by the faithfuls’ tithing.

    Gotcha coming and going, don’t they?

    Unless… we can somehow eliminate tax deductions for religious donations. Possible?

    • helenaconstantine says

      During the last campaign, fundie preachers started openly attacking Obama and endorsing McCain, in violation of IRS rules for non-profits. Obama never did anything to enforce the law after his election, however.

  5. Cuttlefish says

    The local Christians did a lot of fundraising (their own t-shirts and everything) when they thought they might be able to fund an appeal. Clearly, the right thing to do would be to offer that money for partial payment of this debt.

    I wonder what they’ll really do with it…

  6. scenario says

    I live in RI and have dealt with Mr. Nero personally. The man is clearly a political appointment who has no concept of reality. He likes to hire and promote people just like him. His goal seems to be to eliminate any teacher who has any degree of competency and replace them with teachers they can get cheaper.

    There’s another case in RI just like this one in Woonsocket RI that will end up just the same. I was listening to local talk radio this morning and I’m amazed at the number of people who are dead set against the constitution. They seem to believe that the constitution of the U.S. is a communist atheist plot to destroy America. I couldn’t believe the number people who wanted to get in good conservative judges who would ignore the constitution. They define an activist judge as a judge who obeys the law that they don’t like.

    Why are the conservatives in America the ones that want to throw money away like this? The liberals want to obey the constitution and the conservatives want to fight against the constitution and pay ridiculous legal fees for a case they have no chance to win.

    • 'Tis Himself says

      What the whines of “activist judges” and “legislating from the bench” mean is “some judge made a decision I don’t like.” It’s similar to when the same conservatives insist on “strict Constitutional interpretation.” That means “I’m sure the Founding Fathers had the same opinion that I have on this particular subject.” Since the Founding Fathers are all dead, they can hardly disagree.

  7. timberwoof says

    Politicians are generally held immune from consequences of dumb-ass decisions they make. Perhaps they should be required to carry malpractice insurance the way physicians and engineers must. If one votes for a really dumb-ass proposal that causes a financial penalty, he would be held liable for it. But that would take more lawsuits to prove and would only make insurance companies and lawyers even more rich.

    There’s a problem of accountability when politicians get to screw up with other people’s money. Is it good enough that they don’t get re-elected?

  8. Randomfactor says

    I believe the fundraising (and teeshirts) were to “preserve” the banner, not to fight the placement battle. IOW, to make sure the silly thing was removed intact and placed somewhere else.

    But yeah, those idiots who badgered the School Committee into going to court ought to pony up the whole $150,000, in my view.

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