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Public school will defend prayer banner

PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 6 (UPI) -- A Rhode Island school district has retained a conservative legal group to defend it against a legal challenge to a banner bearing a Christian prayer.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is representing Jessica Ahlquist, a sophomore at Cranston High School West, in her lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, The Providence Journal reported Wednesday. Ahlquist, an atheist, says the banner, which has hung in the auditorium for more than 50 years, violates the First Amendment and is seeking an order for its removal and damages from the Cranston School Committee.

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The prayer, which begins "Our Heavenly Father," was written by David Bradley in 1960. Bradley was a Cranston West student and student council member.

The school committee has arranged for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty to be its lead counsel.

"We don't want to erase our school's history because one person in the history of the school objects," Frank S. Lombardi, a member of the committee, said in a statement.

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