Fed Court Sides With Atheist; R.I. School Ordered to Remove Prayer Mural

By the Associated Press | January 11, 2012 | 10:55 PM EST

Jessica Ahlquist, 16, left, arrives at U.S. District Court, in Providence, R.I., Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, with her attorney Lynette Labinger, right. Ahlquist, 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 a Christian prayer banner, arguing that it is offensive to non-Christians. (Steven Senne / AP) Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/RI-atheist-student-confident-in-prayer-mural

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A federal judge has ordered the immediate removal of a prayer mural displayed in the auditorium of a Rhode Island public high school.

Teenage atheist student Jessica Ahlquist had sued Cranston city and Cranston High School West officials, demanding they remove the banner because it promotes a religion. She calls it offensive to non-Christians.

City officials claimed the mural is a historical artifact from the school's early days and serves no religious purpose. The prayer encourages students to strive academically. It begins with the words "Our Heavenly Father" and ends with "Amen."

A senior U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday ruled in the atheist student's favor.

The student has 20 days to file counsel fees and costs. City officials will have 10 days to respond. The court will enter judgment after these issues are resolved.