RI atheist student confident in prayer mural suit

By Laura Crimaldi

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 13 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

A prayer banner, center, is seen on the wall of an auditorium at Cranston High School West, in Cranston, R.I., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. High school student Jessica Ahlquist, 16, who is an atheist, and is being represented by the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, wants Cranston High School West officials to remove the prayer banner, arguing that it is offensive to non-Christians.

Steven Senne, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A 16-year-old atheist says she's confident the law is on her side in her fight over a prayer mural that she wants removed from the auditorium of her Rhode Island high school.

Jessica Ahlquist said Thursday that her case that the mural at Cranston High School West is forbidden under the Constitution is "very strong."

Ahlquist sued the city of Cranston in federal court, saying the mural is offensive to non-Christians.

Joseph Cavanagh Jr., who is defending the city, says the mural is a historical artifact from the school's early days and serves no religious purpose.

Senior Judge Ronald Lagueux took the case under advisement after hearing from both sides.

The prayer encourages students to strive academically and begins with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

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