School officials in Cranston, R.I., say they can't afford a court battle with the American Civil Liberties Union, so they will remove a banner that has been displayed in a high school auditorium for more than half a century -- a mural that calls on "Our Heavenly Father" to help students conduct themselves appropriately.
School officials say they can't even afford a lawsuit -- the district is $6 million in debt and under a deficit reduction plan with the city -- so they will probably amend the banner's wording to avoid a fight.
The ACLU, following a complaint from a parent whose child doesn't even attend the school, wrote a letter to officials at Cranston High School West asking them to take down the banner, claiming it violated the First Amendment.
Frank Lombardi, a member of the Cranston School District, told Fox News that the banner, which encourages students to strive to do their best and be a credit to the school, has been in the auditorium since 1958 and means so much to so many in the community.
“The bulk of responses I have received are all to save the mural, to keep the words up, and to save all of the positive qualities contained in it for our students,” Lombardi said.
He said the School Committee plans to discuss the matter with the ACLU on Tuesday, and he hopes the two parties can reach a compromise.
Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island ACLU affiliate, told The Providence Journal that changing the wording may work, but it will take more than simply removing the first and last lines -- "our heavenly Father" and "Amen."
The banner also includes lines that read, “Help us to be good at sports” and “Teach us the value of true friendship.”
"I understand that this prayer may have been posted in the auditorium for a long time," Brown said, "However, the crucial protections of the Bill of Rights have been around even longer."
His letter to school officials referred to U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ruled unconstitutional the posting of the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms, and a district policy that states, "The proper setting for religious observance is the home and the place of worship."
"Rhode Island, as a pluralistic state founded on religious freedom, should be particularly sensitive to the divisiveness of government-sponsored displays promoting religion," Brown wrote.
School Committee Chairman Michael Traficante said he had been to the auditorium many times and couldn't recall seeing the banner. Still, he said, if it violates the Constitution, it must either be removed or amended.
The ACLU said, “We are very pleased that Cranston School Committee members recognize the impropriety of posting a school prayer. We look forward to favorably resolving this matter in the coming weeks.”
Below is the full text of the banner:
Our Heavenly Father,
Grant us each day the desire to do our best,
To grow mentally and morally as well as physically,
To be kind and helpful to our classmates and teachers,
To be honest with ourselves as well as with others,
Help us to be good sports and smile when we lose as well as when we win,
Teach us the value of true friendship,
Help us always to conduct ourselves so as to bring credit to Cranston High School West.
Foxnews.com's Meghan Baker and the AP contributed to this report.