Thursday, April 26, 2012

Atheists Want WWI Memorial Cross Demolished in RI

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is demanding that a cross outside of the fire station in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, as well as a prayer on the department website, be removed because both are unconstitutional.  Citizens overwhelmingly support the 1921 memorial to fallen World War I soldiers, some arguing that the cross is NOT in reference to Christianity.
“The majority now is being bullied by the minority, by the atheists and by the secularists and we feel like we are on the defensive . . .”
-- Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas J. Tobin
For background, read Supreme Court Says No Crosses; Arlington Neither? and also read Federal Appeals Court Rules Cross Unconstitutional as well as Court Ruling Removes Prayer Banner from Cranston RI School

UPDATE 5/3/12 "We're 'going to battle against these atheists all the way back to Wisconsin'" (video):

-- From "Cross in Woonsocket called unconstitutional" by The Associated Press 4/24/12

The Woonsocket Call reports that the Madison, Wis.-based [atheist] group sent Mayor Leo Fontaine a letter calling the cross' display in the parking lot of the fire department "unlawful" because of the separation of church and state.

The foundation says an image of an angel and "The Fire Fighter's Prayer" on the department's website are also unconstitutional.

The group says it received a complaint from a local resident, but officials in Woonsocket are skeptical. Fontaine says the monument has been there for 97 years and no one has had a problem with it.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Mayor keeping options open, calls atheists 'knuckleheads'" by Dee DeQuattro, WPRO News (Radio 630/99.7FM) 4/25/12

“It’s one of those things that you want to try to dismiss because, you know, a couple knuckle heads out in Wisconsin have an idea that they feel offended about something and suddenly everybody has to jump for them and I don’t want to have to resort to that but I also don’t want to be unprepared either,” [Mayor Leo] Fontaine told WPRO’s John DePetro.

State Representative Jon Brien from Woonsocket agreed with Fontaine, “What I just heard is so ludicrous its even hard to believe,” Brien told the WPRO Morning News with Tara Granahan and Andrew Gobeil, “This is an organized war on religion, but not religion in general it is a war on Catholicism.”

“They can do it now because they know city and towns are broke so they are not going to be able to put up the money to fight them the way that they normally would,” said Brien.

Fontaine said he doesn’t view the monument as religious in nature. “This cross is there primarily as part of a war memorial and not so much to symbolize the Christian cross but To signify the crosses over thousands and thousands of graves of American soldier who fought and gave their lives for very freedom that this freedom from religion group operates under,” said Fontaine.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Woonsocket Council president defends cross on war memorial" by Mike McKinney, Providence Journal 4/25/12

City Council President John F. Ward . . . said the memorial being criticized by the Freedom From Religion Foundation is a historical monument, dedicated to people from Woonsocket who gave their lives in the two World Wars, not a religious one.

"I think the organization is completely off base in their objections," Ward said. He said if "they were right then we would have to rebuild the Supreme Court houses in Washington," remove monuments across the country, "and we would have to close the Arlington National Cemetery."

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Bishop Tobin weighs in on war monument, calls atheists bullies" by Dee DeQuattro, WPRO News (Radio 630/99.7FM) 4/26/12

Bishop Tobin says the challenge to the war monument that features a cross in Woonsocket by a Wisconsin atheist group is a “serious attack on religious expression and religious freedom” and that the atheists are bullying those who have faith.

“We are seeing a slow but steady erosion of a basic American value and that is the freedom of religious expression,” said Tobin. Tobin said the cross should not be taken down but he is open to relocating it to an area of more prominence where it will not be an “issue.” Mayor Leo Fontaine of Woonsocket said he is looking at spaces on private land that the monument could be relocated to if necessary. A rally scheduled for next Wednesday May, 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the monument aims to urge the city to keep the monument where it is.

Tobin told John DePetro that religion is everywhere in American society and various faiths are represented. He said that it is impossible for someone “offended” by the presence of religion to avoid it completely so they need to come to terms with it. “It is very hard to be immune to all that. If people are offended by that they have to deal with their issues,” said Tobin. “They cannot live in a bubble. They cannot isolate themselves completely from every religious expression in our nation, in our culture, in our society.”

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.

From "Cross in group's crosshairs" by Russ Olivo, The Call (Woonsocket, RI) 4/23/12

On April 13, the Madison, Wisc.-based foundation sent Mayor Leo T. Fontaine a letter calling the display of the “Latin cross” on public property “unlawful” and demanding that the situation be rectified.

Sprinkled with references to case law affirming the separation of religion and government, the warning has sparked outrage among veterans, city officials and many others in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic enclave.

“It’s a jobs program for lawyers with nothing better to do,” says [Council President] Ward. “I have serious doubts that someone actually reached out to them to file a complaint.”

But city officials take the threat seriously. FFRF is a well-heeled organization whose track record proves it’s not bashful about backing up the tough talk with action. It’s taken on numerous high-profile legal battles over the church-state divide and has won many. It has a litigation fund that’s reportedly in the vicinity of $5.5 million and, by its own accounting, is presently pressing complaints in 11 states, including Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, Tennessee, Virginia and others.

To read the entire article above, CLICK HERE.