This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
From FoxNews.com; February 09, 2012
Rhode Island town is bracing for a potentially "boisterous" public hearing next week where officials will vote on whether to fight a court order to take down a prayer banner that has hung for decades in a high school.
The banner hung for decades until Jessica Ahlquist, a student who is an atheist, complained to the American Civil Liberties Union. The judge ruled Wednesday the banner can be covered by plywood while officials decide whether to fight the removal order, according to Ray Votto, a spokesman for Cranston Public Schools, which serves nearly 12,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
The text of the banner begins "Our Heavenly Father," and goes on to state, "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."
Critics, including the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, say the banner violates the separation of church and state.
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According to ABC6.com news from Providence Rhode Island, Mar 20, 2012
The controversy over the prayer banner at Cranston High School West has come to an end. The banner was recently removed for good, and Tuesday there's an agreement between the city of Cranston and the ACLU over legal fees.
The ACLU wanted 173 thousand dollars in legal fees. It's getting almost all of that. The city of Cranston and the school committee settled with the civil rights group for 150 thousand.
The city and school district, which are both struggling financially, have to come up with the money. One idea is sell the prayer banner that started the controversy. Businesses, church organizations, even some people are interested in it.
US Constitution, First Amendment
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.
“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State. “
Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802
We the People:
As per the preceding quotes, the wall of separation does not prohibit the free exercise of any religion on public grounds by the people or by a state or municipal government. It only prevents the Congress from establishing a national religion. So on a false premise, one judge and the American Civil Liberties Union reduced the liberty of religious speech in a small civil community. Cranston would have better utilized that $150,000 to appeal this decision instead of giving it to the ACLU.