Cranston Residents Speak Out: Want Prayer Banner Ruling Appealed

People in Cranston voiced their anger Tuesday night about a ruling that said a prayer banner at Cranston West High School has to be taken down.

Since that ruling, last week, folks have been speaking out against it, some even threatening the high school girl who wants the banner removed. Now residents are asking the school board to appeal the ruling.

The auditorium at Western Hills Middle School was packed. The message to school committee members was strong, just as the signs people were carrying that said “Appeal or we'll vote them out.”

Folks in Cranston finally let out their frustrations about a prayer banner that's hung in Cranston West High for decades.

“This is not just a Cranston, Rhode Island problem,” said Lisa French, “This is a United States of America problem.”

About 200 people showed up for a meeting with the school board, held immediately after the board met privately. No decision was made in that closed door meeting, but members wanted to hear from the public. There's been a lot of anger ever since a federal judge ruled the banner must come down.

Jessica Ahlquist, the Cranston West student who fought to ban the banner, was also at the meeting defending her case even though she's received numerous threats.

“I would definitely do it again,” said Ahlquist, “I have no regrets.”

The threats were so serious, Ahlquist now has a police escort to school.

“A lot of people are saying that they hope I get beat up,” she said, “That they would hurt me physically in school if they could. It is hurtful. It kind of disturbed me. It's mostly hurtful when it comes from students in the school.”

Some of her classmates spoke up saying they don't agree with the threats or the way Ahlquist has been treated, but they want the prayer banner to stay.

“It was a piece of our schools history,” said David Sears, “It was a gift to us given over 50 years ago, and it's never been touched, never been bothered with, and I think that it should stay.”

There was some concern the meeting could get ugly so about a handful of police officers were on hand.   Turns out nothing happened.

The school board said it's nowhere close to making a decision on the appeal.