Midwest drought expected to impact altar bread prices

GREENVILLE, R.I. – Manufacturers of altar bread are preparing to face rising costs of wheat flour as grain prices fluctuate in the wake of a severe drought that continues to plague the Midwest and Western Canada. But they expect to pass along only a minimal price increase to their customers.

In Clyde, Mo., Benedictine Sr. Rita Claire Dohn, manager of the altar bread ministry of the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, has witnessed a 25 percent increase in the price of wheat flour since the convent last received a delivery two months ago.

"That's pretty steep when there isn't a large profit margin," Dohn emphasized, adding that the convent is the largest religious producer of altar breads in the world. The sisters offer their altar breads wholesale to many smaller convents that resell the life-giving breads to support their community.

"You have to be competitive," she continued, noting that the sisters are being cautious and have yet to increase the prices of their goods.

Ruling ordering removal of school's prayer banner won't be appealed

CRANSTON, R.I. -- A local school committee voted it won't appeal a federal court ruling that called for the permanent removal of a Cranston public high school's prayer banner that had been in place for almost 50 years.

After hearing three hours of passionate testimony Feb. 16, the Cranston School Committee voted 5-2 to not appeal because most members believed that the cost of additional legal expenses would hurt the school department budget.

The banner became the center of debate last April when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit contending that it was a religious symbol displayed in a public school that violated the First Amendment rights of Jessica Ahlquist, a self-avowed atheist, who is now a junior at Cranston High School West.

More than 700 people attended the committee meeting, many of them wearing signs bearing the directive "Appeal," while others carried placards supporting their position. Before the meeting began, many supporters of the prayer banner sang "God Bless America," while during the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, a large number in the audience shouted "Under God."

ACLU files suit challenging prayer banner

CRANSTON, R.I. -- A federal lawsuit filed by the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union against the city of Cranston challenges the constitutionality of a prayer banner displayed since 1963 in the auditorium of Cranston West High School.

The suit was filed on behalf of Jessica Ahlquist, a sophomore at the school.

After receiving several calls, the ACLU asked school officials last July to remove the 8-by-3-foot banner in an effort to avoid the need for costly litigation. On March 7, by a vote of 4-3, the Cranston school committee voted to allow the banner. The lawsuit was filed April 4.

Providence attorney Joseph V. Cavanagh Jr. and lawyers for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, based in Washington, will represent the school district.

"I am involved because I believe that the First Amendment right of free expression should be protected," Cavanagh said. "The statement in question represents the heritage and beliefs of a student in the early days in the high school which has been and should be freely preserved in a nonthreatening manner. While debate on these issues is welcome, we hope that common sense will rule the day."