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Remember the Teen Atheist Who Battled for the Removal of Her School's Prayer Mural? There's an Update



Jessica Ahlquist (left) (AP)

Remember Jessica Ahlquist, the teen atheist who successfully fought for the removal of a prayer mural that was once hung in her high school in Cranston, R.I.? A judge eventually ruled in the student's favor, mandating that the sign be taken down, as it was dubbed a violation of the separation of church and state.

Now, a new replacement mural has been dedicated and hung in the school. And in case you were wondering, it contains no mentions of God or prayer.

On Saturday, the new sign was presented to Cranston High School West by the Class of 1963, which was, ironically, the same group that gave the original mural to the school decades ago. The new sign was unveiled during a closed-door, invitation-only event.

The original prayer banner that was later removed (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Along with the replacement sign was a second mural that provides the school's creed, reports the Providence Journal. The new messaging is a major departure from the original wording, which included words like "Our Heavenly Father" and "Amen" -- terms that are known for being explicitly religious in nature.

As The Friendly Atheist notes, the original banner that was removed last year read:

Our Heavenly Father.

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.


In January, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Lagueux sided with the then-16-year-old and agreed that the sign should be removed. Citing excessive costs and a potentially long legal battle, the local school district decided not to appeal the judge's removal decision.

Causing local and national controversy, Ahlquist claimed that its presence was offensive to non-Christians and that it violated her civil rights. The lawsuit she initiated led to intense sparring over the separation of church and state. As a result, the teen faced threats and became a key figure in the never-ending cultural battle surrounding faith in the public square.

Jessica Ahlquist, top center, who brought action against a prayer banner at Cranston West High School smiles as she sits with supporters during a school committee meeting at Cranston East High School in Cranston, RI., Thursday night, Feb. 16, 2012. (Photo Credit: AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

More than one year later, it seems Cranston is ready to move on with a secular mural that is intended to fill the void left by the prayer mural. The new message is a play on the school's mascot, the Falcons. It reads:

Foster an atmosphere of good will and respect

Affirm our efforts to conduct ourselves with honor

Learn from our achievements and mistakes

Choose wisely the paths taken and friends made

Overcome prejudice and embrace diversity

Nurture ourselves, families, friends and communities

Strive for excellence in all our future endeavors

Ahlquist took to her Twitter feed over the weekend to note that she was not invited to the unveiling ceremony.

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/jessicaahlquist/status/381835047835545600"]

As for the new banner, the Class of 1963 said that it was given in an attempt to move on from the contentious national controversy. Member Janice Bertino reiterated this motivation, telling the Journal, "The community is healed. There is no more controversy."

(H/T: Providence Journal)



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