ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today in response the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District:
Thirty years ago, in Lee v. Weisman, the ACLU of Rhode Island’s successful challenge to the Providence school district’s practice of having prayers at school graduation ceremonies, the U.S. Supreme Court eloquently noted: “The lessons of the First Amendment are as urgent in the modern world as in the 18th Century when it was written. One timeless lesson is that if citizens are subjected to state sponsored religious exercises, the State disavows its own duty to guard and respect that sphere of inviolable conscience and belief which is the mark of a free people.”
Today’s decision from the Court severely undermines that lesson, mars a central principle of religious freedom under the guise of upholding it, and leaves a major crack in the wall separating church and state that Roger Williams helped to establish in our state and our country.
Unfortunately, this ruling is but the latest in a continuing string of decisions from a radical court intent on undercutting some of our most fundamental rights. The ACLU will continue to push back against these regressive pronouncements, as Roger Williams’ legacy of church-state separation is perhaps more crucial than it has ever been.