So When Will the ACLU Be Filing the Other Suit Necessary to Protect “Separation of Church and State” in Cranston?
The controversy surrounding the banner displayed at Cranston High School West which uses the words “Heavenly Father” and “Amen” has unintentionally revealed another issue concerning the principle of “separation of church and state” in the City of Cranston. As was reported by Maria Armental in the Projo, Cranston’s School Committee maintains an official policy telling people where they should practice their religious observances; page 686 of the Cranston School Committee policy document says that…
The Cranston Public Schools reaffirms the basic American tradition of separation of church and state. Such a policy is the logical outcome of our pluralistic society. The proper setting for religious observance is the home and the place of worship.Declaring a limited set of places where religious observances are appropriate is pretty heavy-handed stuff to be coming from government, and if the display of a decorative banner can be considered movement towards the establishment of a government religion in violation of the First Amendment, then the adoption by the government of an official policy listing a limited number of sites where religious observance is deemed to be “proper” is an equally egregious violation of that same First Amendment’s protection of the free-exercise of religion.
You might expect an organization concerned about “the separation of church and state” to object to a government statement defining proper places for religious observance, with the same urgency that has been shown in the objections to the banner. Instead, Steven Brown, head of the local chapter of the ACLU has approvingly cited the government-created statement of limits on where religious observance should occur as a part of the rationale for removing or altering the Cranston West banner. Based on the asymmetry of their approach, it certainly seems as if the local ACLU believes that maintaining stringent standards of “separation of church and state” is a priority in cases where such standards can be used to push religion out of public view, but that in other cases, separation of church and state is not so much of a priority, if even one at all.