About the Cranston Banner

Regarding the Cranston banner, well, it’s pretty much all been said, so I won’t divert too much time into it. Suffice to say, it’s obvious that the decision to pursue an appeal was heavily affected by the current fiscal crisis in the City of Cranston. Would they have gone ahead if Cranston had more money? Possibly, but not a guarantee. The popular will certainly seemed to be there and even if took some dragging and cajoling I think the political will would have followed.
Yet, instead, fiscal trouble provided a convenient excuse (and a real one) to get the brouhaha off the School Committee’s table. Most politician’s aren’t looking for a fight, but this is especially true on school committees, where the go-along-to-get-along attitude is evident in the legacy of school contract “negotiations” that we’re dealing with across the state. No, it’s better for all to “get past” this unpleasantness and move on. The only question that remains: in the aftermath, will those on the School Committee who voted against pursuing the matter further feel it at the ballot box in November? I have doubts.

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Dan
Dan
10 years ago

There are two different types of disagreements here. The first is over whether the banner is permissible under the law. The second is over whether the banner *ought* to be permissible under the law. If you believe the banner is permissible under the law, you are wrong. It’s a simple legal question based on the case law, and the answer is that the banner is unconstitutional. Bringing an appeal on this issue would therefore be a complete waste of time, energy, and money to tell us what we already know. If your issue is with what *ought* to be legal, then bringing an appeal is similarly a waste of time, energy, and money, because it would do nothing to change the state of the law. The proper avenue for that is a Constitutional amendment or electing Presidents who will make Supreme Court appointments who are favorable to your viewpoint.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

I have never had reason to research it, but I suspect Dan is right on both counts. We have adopted “freedom from religion” as a constitutional stricture.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, this problem has a greater appeal to emotion than logic. I suppose it is rather difficult to teach both God and evolution in the same school.
There may be a change in the air, I heard a commentator on the radio note that Catholics are now up to 25% of the population, largely due to Hispanic immigration. While Catholic viewpoints may not differ markedly from other Christians,they have the advantage that “the Church” is unified and able to speak for them.

mangeek
mangeek
10 years ago

“a convenient excuse (and a real one) to get the brouhaha off the School Committee’s table.”
The same school committee that didn’t see ‘our heavenly father’ on a wall as establishment of religion?
The same school committee that can’t run kindergarten for more than half-days because of fiscal constraints, but decided that a decoration in the gym is worth somewhere between $120,000 and $500,000?

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

I am wondering, what result if a Catholic/parochial school admiited athiests. I have never heard of a complaint, but I am sure there are athiests aplenty.
For myself, my father was protestant and my mother Catholic. They compromised and raised me as an agnostic.

michael
michael
10 years ago

I went to a Catholic high school, and at the time was an agnostic (mostly because I was afraid the be an atheist- you never know.)
When I refused to make my confirmation because I decided it would be hypocritical to do so, the brothers respected my wishes, after trying their hardest to persuade me to become a soldier of God.
It never occurred to me to put up an agnostic banned in an institution built around religion. Why the city of Cranston fought to keep a prayer banner in a public building is beyond me. It was up for years, somebody wanted to make a point, and they were right, and that should have been the end of it, when the took it down.
I’m fairly certain that most of the kids in that school really don’t care.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

I differ with Dan’s assertions on both points. If the question of legality were so clear, I would have found the judge’s ruling more persuasive. This case is clearly another step along the path. Many secularists have inferred that step as obvious, but it was not.
On the second point, the way our judiciary has been functioning for decades, if not centuries, leaves no reason to think that the current Supreme Court mightn’t “refine” the precedent to allow the banner. Dan implicitly acknowledges this possibility (and contradicts his assertion about the “waste of time” of an appeal) when he suggests that one solution would be to change the makeup of the court through presidential appointments. The current Supreme Court may or may not be sufficient toward that end, but it’s hardly so clear as to be a waste of time.
Personally, I think it’s worth the defense of religious liberty, of federalism, and of self government for some effort and money to be expended to fight back the fundamentalist atheist movement. Like other extremists, they won’t be satisfied with this victory.
In 20 years, some future michael may be saying, “It’s beyond me why the school district would fight to let Christian student groups form.” Twenty years after that: “It’s beyond me why the school would force teachers to pretend that Christian beliefs might conceivably be true.” Twenty more: “It’s beyond me why a school district can’t set requirements for graduation that require students to understand how the universe really works — that is, without the possibility of God.”

Max D
Max D
10 years ago

“If you believe the banner is permissible under the law, you are wrong.”
While I think the school committee made the right choice, I disagree with Dan’s assertion ‘you are wrong’ if you believe the banner is permissible under law. That’s the purpose of the whole appeals process. There is no statute whether it be state or federal nor any section of the Constitution the strictly forbids hanging that banner in a government owned building. The rule of law that he speaks of is an interpretation and still may be subject to review. Again, I think Cranston made the right choice and I left my religion behind a long time ago but nothing is as black and white as the banner objectors would suggest.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Justin – What you are saying is technically correct. However, resources are extremely limited, and there are certain realities about what the Supreme Court is and is not likely to do. Hearing this inconsequential case and using it as a vessel to reverse the entire body of Establishment Clause case law is not only falls into the latter category, it is bolted to the ground there. I’m sure there is a memorandum written by some unpaid legal intern sitting on a Cranston desk that correctly characterizes the chance of success in this case as essentially zero. Besides, Rhode Island should be hoarding its nuts at the moment – Winter is Coming.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Max – I have much the same reply as my comment to Justin. Technically, you are correct. But how many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars should Cranston be willing to spend to defend this stupid banner in court? (The characterization is my own.) The case law is firmly settled and it would have to be overturned by the Supreme Court. What an appeal would attempt to do is “unsettle” the matter. It’s not impossible, but should the city, given all of its current financial problems, really choose to martyr itself over something that would produce no tangible benefit to anyone even if they are successful? I don’t see how any sane person could think that it should, regardless of their religious affiliation. I’d personally like pot to be legal, but I’m not willing to go to prison and take out a third mortgage to fight that battle.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

Dan,
Were it not your own argument, I’m sure you’d be the first to point out the movement of the goal posts therein.
“If you believe the banner is permissible under the law, you are wrong.”
has become
“What you are saying is technically correct.”
Furthermore, reversing the lower judge on this issue would not “reverse the entire body of Establishment Clause case law.” Rather, it would refine it in a way that leaves open the possibility of gradual erosion down the road.
Winter may be coming, but that doesn’t mean you let the Lannisters have the kingdom.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Justin – Perhaps I was unclear as to what I was referring with my second statement. The banner is clearly illegal and this has not changed in my opinion. I was simply acknowledging your point that the case law could theoretically be changed through an appeal. The lower courts have no authority to “refine” the Supreme Court case law in any way that would allow this banner to remain, so the case would have to rise to the Supreme Court level in order to legitimately succeed. The chances of that happening are, as I said, essentially zero. So how much money is it worth to you to make a philosophical point? My opinion is that more than enough has been wasted already.

OldTimeLefty
10 years ago

Dan,
It seems we can agree on some things. Thank you for your comments.
Justin’s arguments are loaded with what if’s and suppose this or that. Very weak, no substance, scare tactics.
OldTimeLefty

Max D
Max D
10 years ago

“The lower courts have no authority to “refine” the Supreme Court case law in any way that would allow this banner to remain, so the case would have to rise to the Supreme Court level in order to legitimately succeed.”
Not necessarily. Lower courts could reverse this decision and the Supreme Court could choose not to hear the case and let the last lower court’s decision stand. I agree they shouldn’t spend the money to do so but again, it’s not that black and white.

michael
michael
10 years ago

In twenty years some future michael might even understand himself.

Dan
Dan
10 years ago

Max – In practice that would never happen. Lower courts make mistakes but they don’t deliberately rule contrary to Supreme Court precedent.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
10 years ago

Michael,
And no doubt, some future Justin will find a way to contradict the future Michael…

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
10 years ago

I don’t know about any of you here,but i am fairly sick and tired of Steven Brown manipulating people and circumstances to advance the witch hunt against religion in public spaces that seems to fulfill the agenda of himself and the coterie of so-called civil libertarians making up the ACLU.
They are very concerned with the “rights”of convicted pedophiles.
Strangely a few prominent ACLU officials have been convicted of child porn/pedophilia charges in NY and VA.Taking care of their own maybe?
Roger Baldwin founded the ACLU as an organization to advance international socialism and bring down national governments.

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

“In twenty years some future michael might even understand himself.”
(ahem) Possibly coincident with a visit by dementia …

EMT
EMT
10 years ago

I am wondering, what result if a Catholic/parochial school admiited athiests. I have never heard of a complaint, but I am sure there are athiests aplenty.
I’ve attended 4 catholic schools (2 elementary, 1 high school, 1 college).
Out of just the individuals I had personal knowledge of, my classmates included Jews, a Wiccan (or claimed to be, I think it was a phase personally), pretty much every Christian denomination there is, and more atheists than I could probably count. All had various reasons for being at the school we attended at the time.
The world didn’t end.

Pluto Animus
Pluto Animus
10 years ago

Not a word about upholding the law or just doing the right thing….
Oh, this is a Conservative blog, eh?
That explains it. Neither is a Conservative priority.

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