The Humanist Hour #71: On location in Cranston, Rhode Island

A new episode of the Humanist Hour is available for listening. Keep reading to find out about the guests on this month’s show.

In this month’s podcast, Jes Constantine heads to Cranston, RI to hear the local residents, students, and teachers voice their opinion about the Cranston High School West prayer banner. Also, listen to Ellery Schempp tell the story of his landmark US Supreme Court case from over 50 years ago, ruling government sanctioned prayer unconstitutional.

Segment 1: Light the Night Walk

We are incredibly excited to announce the launch of a project that, with your help, is going to have an enormous positive impact both on our movement and in the fight against cancer. Foundation Beyond Belief is now a “Special Friend” team partner with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) for their Light The Night Walks. Our goal is to unite the Freethought Movement around the world to raise one million U.S. Dollars in 2012. This would make us the first team in LLS history to bring in more than $1,000,000 in their first year!

Segment 2: On location in Cranston, RI

Humanists are applauding the 5-2 decision tonight by the Cranston School Committee in Rhode Island to not pursue an appeal of a federal judge’s ruling to immediately remove a prayer banner from the Cranston West High School auditorium wall.

“Given the strength of the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald R. Lagueux, it would have been tough for the school system to appeal,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We’re certainly glad that the committee decided to not waste any more time and money in pursuing one.”

The case has brought international attention to the school and to Jessica Ahlquist, the student who filed the suit. Because she has been the subject of harassment and ridicule due to the case, local police have increased attention on her and her family’s safety. The outlandish behavior has come from every corner, including lawmakers, students, parents, and business owners.

The committee meeting was attended by hundreds of people, many from out of the area who came to support Ahlquist in her fight to protect the separation of church and state, the constitutional principle that protects everyone’s religious freedoms.

“Jessica Ahlquist has stood up against her most vehement and vile critics with class and style,” Speckhardt said. “Her example shows how a fight should be undertaken in favor of protecting the freedoms we are guaranteed by our constitution. Everyone should offer a healthy measure of gratitude to her and her family.”

The American Humanist Association is proud to play a role in Ahlquist’s future by working with Hemant Mehta, blogger for the popular website The Friendly Atheist, to manage an education trust fund to help pay for the cost of her future education.

Segment 3: Abington School District v. Schempp 50 Years Later

Fifty years ago a public school student named Ellery Schempp contacted the American Civil Liberties Union to help him protest public school sanctioned Bible readings. His lawsuit was eventually combined with a similar case by American Atheist Founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on their case, Abington School District v. Schempp , that public school-sanctioned Bible readings were unconstitutional. Matt Cherry, former executive director of the Institute for Humanist Studies, spoke to Schempp by phone.

Links from this month’s episode:

Light the Night Walk

Upcoming Event links:

Music from this month’s episode (in order of appearance):

  • Theme Song: “Sound Scientist” by Bill
  • “Accidental Nomads” by Ambient Figures
  • “Waiting for Rain” by SIRSY