Rhode Island: Atheist Group Eyeing War Memorial Cross for Removal
Hmm… Seems that atheists can’t quite wrap their little heads around all the Christian history behind The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations…
But, I digress. Anyway, the cross in question certainly qualifies for an historic landmark designation, and, as such, should encounter little resistance to such a designation.
However, failing that, there’s a simple way to resolve this problem: Designate the land, which the cross on, as private land. Then, sell it to a private religious foundation. That way, the atheists can’t get rid of it and will be forced to stare at it forever as a reminder of how extremely simple it is to defeat atheistic activism:
Atheist group calls for removal of war memorial, firefighter tributes
By Rick Snizek & Brian J. Lowney
(CNA).- A longstanding memorial to veterans killed in two world wars, topped by a non-descript, three-and-a-half foot white Latin-style cross is the latest target in the Ocean State of a self-described atheist and agnostic freethinkers group.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group dedicated to the separation of church and state, is calling for the immediate removal of the memorial from public property where it rests on a small island outside the City of Woonsocket’s Fire Department headquarters. The group has also asked that two items displayed on the Fire Department’s Web site — the Fireman’s Prayer and a graphic of an angel consoling a grieving firefighter that appears on a page under construction to honor brethren who have died in the line of duty — also be removed.
In letters received by the mayor and fire chief on April 16, the Freedom From Religion Foundation asked the City of Woonsocket, R.I. to relocate the memorial to private property and for the Fire Department to remove the prayer and graphic from its Web site.
In an interview provided to the John DePetro Show on News Talk 630 WPRO and 99.7 FM, Mayor Leo T. Fontaine of Woonsocket. indicated he would not capitulate to the group’s request.
“I’m not going to fold. This monument is not going to go away,” Mayor Fontaine said.
The mayor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but said in the radio interview that he has received hundreds of e-mails from all over the country from people offering their support to the city, including pro bono legal representation if the organization decides to file suit against the city.
In the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter to the city, Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Market notes that it is illegal for the city to display “patently religious symbols and messages on city property.”
Market said that both the Web site and the Latin cross demonstrate a preference for religion over nonreligion.
“Such government endorsements of religion run afoul of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Market said in the letter, which requests a written response from the city outlining the steps it intends to take in resolving this matter.
Fire Chief Gary Lataille, in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic Wednesday at his office in Fire Station 2, which overlooks the memorial, said he has no plans to take any action at the request of the Freedom From Religion Foundation.
“When the mayor, as public safety director or a court orders me to remove it, I will,” Lataille said.
The chief said that the department’s Web site has existed for about 10 years, and in that time, he isn’t aware of any complaints about the prayer, which is universally accepted among the brotherhood of firefighters, or any imagery depicted.
According to Msgr. John Allard, chaplain of the Fire Department and pastor of St. Agatha and Precious Blood churches in Woonsocket, the cross is a “landmark” that has existed for almost a century in a city heavily populated by the descendents of French-Canadian immigrants who settled in the area during the early 1900s and who worked in local textile mills.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Msgr. Allard, a Woonsocket native. “I think that there are many serious issues in the country. This is a distraction.”
The monument was erected in 1921 in memory of William Jolicoeur, a member of the American Expeditionary Forces killed in France during World War I. In 1952, it was rededicated by the Disabled American Veterans in honor of three brothers, Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne, all killed during World War II.
According to the Woonsocket Centennial History, 1888-2000, the 1921 dedication was an international event, with a high-profile visit by Marshall Ferdinand Foch, commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War I. Foch participated in the dedication of “Place Jolicoeur,” the monumental plaza alongside Fire Station 2.
The site where the monument rests was once a traffic island in the middle of a busy roadway. But when flooding prompted the city to change the traffic pattern, “Place Jolicoeur” became part of the fire station’s parking lot.
Joseph V. Cavanagh, a First Amendment attorney, [said] “This seems to be yet another alarming example of the insidious effort to drive religion and therefore God, out of our lives here in America.” […] “Our freedom to believe, to worship, and to practice our faith is clearly under attack. All of us need to pray more for fortitude and for the perseverance to battle peacefully but vigorously for our rights to freely practice and embrace our beliefs, or else we will soon look back with great regret for the freedom we have given up not only for ourselves but for the generations to come.”Explore posts in the same categories: Christians, Christians under attack, Religion