Commentary: St. Thomas More and the Cranston West Prayer Banner Case

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Originally published in Rhode Island Bar Journal - May/June 2012.

The United States District Court for the District of Rhode Island recently ordered that the City of Cranston remove a religious banner from Cranston High School West. Although not immediately evident, the Court's decision promotes the principle of freedom of conscience, a principle at the core of the belief system of St. Thomas More, the parton saint of lawyers. More's writings reflect the significance and import of freedom of conscience to our society and this essential lesson from the Ahlquist decision.

Saint Thomas More was King Henry VIII of England's closest advisor in the early 1500s. More was a lawyer and devout Roman Catholic, who made faith his top priority in life, campaigning against the invasion of the Protestant Church in England. Henry VIII, like Thomas More, initially also defended the Church against Protestant influence in England, but Henry soon broke off from the Church. Henry was unhappy that the Church would not grant him an annulment of his first marriage to his wife Catherine and instead marry Anne Boleyn.

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