School officials will defend "Our Heavenly Father" banner

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Cranston school committee has voted 4 to 3 to keep a banner at Cranston West High School that civil liberties advocates say is unconstitutional because it carries the words "Our Heavenly Father."

School Committee Chair Person Andrea Iannazzi says officials feel the banner does not display religious connotations.

"The message contained in the banner is one of hope for the future and outlines a moral compass for our students," Iannazzi says. "So that banner has become a part of Cranston West tradition."

But Steven Brown, director of the local affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, says the banner is inappropriate and that the ACLU will move forward with litigation in the near future.

"I'm very confident that the court will conclude, as the U.S. Supreme Court concluded over 50 years ago, that the school district simply cannot be promoting a prayer in its public schools," Brown says.

The school committee says it is looking into the possibility of having a volunteer attorney represent the city in court. The issue arose last year after the ACLU requested that the banner be removed from the school's auditorium.

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