In the end, after 1½ hours of heated discussion Tuesday, a School Committee working group charged in August to research what the School District ought to do about a prayer plaque at Cranston High School West that calls on “Our Heavenly Father” to guide students voted to research the issue further.
In the end, district officials said, money –– and the law –– will dictate what the district will do. The district owes the city more than $6 million.
“We are not in any position to take on more debt, no matter how righteous the cause is,” said School Committee member Stephanie A. Culhane, who described herself as a devout Catholic who teaches catechism.One wonders what kind of debt Stephanie Culhane is going on about, since the problem could be solved with two swaths of paint, but what she's referring to is the cost of either battling the ACLU to try and keep the offending material in place, or fighting a group of concerned religious zealots who have threatened to sue if the prayer is removed.
“If the banner is removed, we will sue,” said Christopher Young, a well-known face on the Rhode Island campaign circuit who last ran for mayor in Providence. He said 100 Cranston West students and parents had signed a petition to keep the prayer as is. “So the city will pay no matter what.”You might remember Christopher Young, who in his bid for Mayor of Providence made a complete jackass of himself:
Addressing directly the two Cranston West students on the committee –– junior Eric Borrelli and sophomore Taylor Grenga –– Young said what the committee was really doing was discussing whether to remove God from everything.
Young was escorted out of the event by the police after he refused to take down a large statue of the Virgin Mary that he had placed on the candidates’ table.
Doris De Los Santos, president of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund, which sponsored the forum, said candidates were told not to bring props or signs to the debate stage. Young argued it was a question of free speech: “The statue stands for my faith. I believe I have a right to be here with my faith.”
As debate organizers and 10 police officers asked Young to leave the stage or remove the statue, about 200 registered attendees waited in the humid hallway outside the auditorium.
“To have one person put a damper on an important political process is selfish,” said Michael Van Leesten, one of a handful people in the auditorium to watch the debacle unfold.I find it interesting but unsurprising that Young would call upon First Amendment rights at the Mayoral debate but not grant the same protections to the students at Cranston West. After all, the same Amendment that protects free speech also protects people from state sponsored religion. So let's go back to what Young said:
Young said what the committee was really doing was discussing whether to remove God from everything.No Chris, not everything, just the walls of public High Schools. Jessica Ahlquist summed it up nicely:
Students have the right to practice religion.School Superintendent Peter L. Nero, a practicing Catholic, seemed to agree:
If people want to express themselves religiously, I would advise them to go to church. I see a lot of empty pews next to me.Not reported in the article was how heated the meeting became. Jessica and the other students protesting the banner were grossly outnumbered by the Crowd Chris Young brought with him. They found themselves in a corner, being bodily protected by three police oficers from the crowd, one of whom insisted on handing her a note. The note directed them to a website called Silent Scream, for reasons no one could understand, because this issue has nothing to do with abortion, except perhaps in the mind of some hopelessly confused person.