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City opts to fight for memorial

April 30, 2012

WOONSOCKET — The Wisconsin group that condemned a World War I monument bearing a Latin cross as a violation of the separation of church and state because it’s located on city property may have a legal battle on its hands after all.
Buoyed by offers of free legal assistance and an outpouring of public support, the City Council will decide tonight whether to establish a defense fund to keep the monument at Place Jolicoeur, in the parking lot of Fire Station No. 2, with the Latin cross intact.
“Clearly the level of support we’ve received is an indication of how strongly people around the country feel about the monument,” said Mayor Leo T. Fontaine. “The support they’re offering may enable us to move forward with a defense of a legal claim against the monument, if one is ever filed.”
The Madison, Wisc.-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent Fontaine a letter on April 13 demanding that the cross be removed from the monument, saying it runs afoul of the constitutional prohibition on state-sponsored religion.
The national nonprofit group also objected to the image of an angel comforting a firefighter and the inclusion of “The Fire Fighter’s Prayer” on the Woonsocket Fire Department’s website, saying they, too, are illegal and must be removed.
The letter was triggered by a complaint from a city resident who is “offended” by the religious icon on city property, according to FFRF, which has so far declined to identify the individual.
If approved, a resolution the council is slated to take up at 7:30 tonight in Harris Hall would create “The City of Woonsocket War Memorial Defense and Preservation Fund.” Money deposited into the account would be separate from the general fund and could be used only for “legal and related costs” incurred in defense of the monument and the disputed content of the WFD’s website.
If it turns out the money isn’t needed for a lawsuit, it could be used to maintain the monument, as well as other military memorials in the city, the resolution says.
Some officials, including the mayor and City Council President John Ward, had expressed a reluctance to get dragged into a costly legal fight after receiving the letter, citing the recent imbroglio with the American Civil Liberties Union over a prayer banner in a Cranston school.
The city is teetering on the brink of insolvency and is looking for ways to eke out the fiscal year, including a hefty supplemental tax bill slated for action in the legislature, probably within a few days.
But the reaction to the potential cost of the litigation surfaced before the story went national, and the phone at City Hall began ringing off the hook with offers of donations to fight the FFRF if it sues Woonsocket over the monument.
Fontaine said the city has since fielded numerous offers of pro bono legal help from foundations committed to religious freedom and law firms, as well as contributions from private individuals, from all over the country.
“The magnitude of the response has been incredible,” said the mayor. “We’ve gotten calls from California, Washington State, Texas and Florida. We’ve gotten calls from five or six law firms and foundations.”
The Liberty Counsel, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which supported Cranston’s fight to save a prayer banner, are among the national organizations offering free legal help.
“The name says it all,” Mat Staver, the Liberty Counsel’s CEO said in a statement opposing the FFRF. “They want no free exercise of religion at all. They are chipping away at our Christian heritage one war memorial, one creche display, one prayer proclamation at a time.”
Fontaine said one ex-Woonsocket resident from Mississippi “offered to fly here and hand-deliver a check to me for $1,000.”
Even political hopefuls are seizing the day. Former State Police Supt. Brendan Doherty, a Republican challenger for the U.S. House seat held by Democrat David Cicilline issued a statement decrying the FFRF’s “overzealous attack” on patriots, while U.S. Senate contender Barry Hinckley, a Republican eyeing Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s seat, pledged to put up his own money to help “purchase and preserve” the monument.
The storied marker was dedicated amid much fanfare to the memory of Private William Jolicoeur, a Woonsocket resident killed in World War I. Marshal Ferdinand Foch, a Frenchman who was the supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, traveled to Woonsocket to dedicate the monument on Nov. 13, 1921. The monument was later rededicated in May 1952 in memory of three brothers, Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne, after all three were killed in World War II.
Some city officials say the white cross on the monument is not a religious symbol, but a historical artifact intended to replicate the crosses on the gravesites of Jolicoeur, and thousands of other U.S. servicemen, at the location where they are actually buried, in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.

Comments

It's an insult to Non-Christian Veterans

May 12, 2012 by Chris Allen (not verified), 2 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 1291

Just being a Christian doesn't make you a patriot. Many veterans were not Christians, and many were killed by Christian enemy. Using dead veterans as an excuse to evangelize for your church is to dishonor non-Christian veterans. European Jews learned to fear the cross, because millions of their fellows were murdered by Christian Nazis sporting crosses on their uniforms and "Gott mit uns" (God's with us) on their belt buckles and SS dagger handles. Woonsocket is practicing Christian bigotry at the expense of non-Christian veterans like me.

Cross insults ALL veterans

May 13, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 1299

I agree with you that having the cross on a government-owned war memorial is indeed an insult to non-christian veterans.

But I would go a step farther and say that it also insult even CHRISTIAN veterans. Those brave vets who fought for our country and its Constitution, which includes keeping GOVERNMENT clearly OUT of the religion business.

Having an ILLEGAL cross (or any other ILLEGAL display) on top of a veterans memorial is an INSULT to ALL veterans, including those named in the memorial.

The Cross Monument

May 11, 2012 by Chris Allen (not verified), 2 years 32 weeks ago
Comment: 1289

This whole hysterical soap opera has been played out before in Utah in the last decade, and we know how it ends. When Utah lost its legal battle to keep its cross memorials for highway patrol troopers on public land, the taxpayers got stuck for $388,050, despite "free" legal help from the Liberty Institute, ACLJ, Becket Fund, and others. See http://tinyurl.com/77r9qxq. A parade of religious right organizations and politicians supported the cross case, but the Supreme Court said no. (See http://atheists.org/content/steel-crosses-utah-highways) The court ordered Utah to remove the crosses. I would advise the city of Woonsocket to spend its tax money on schools, police, and fire fighters, not on evangelical crusades.

Good info

May 10, 2012 by 60sreformed (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 1284

For those who are in support of the memorial, I suggest you google "The Agenda, Grinding America Down" It's a video I saw recently that put the whole liberal thing into perspective, including the attack o religion. You have to purchase the CD, but it's worth every penny.
"govwhomever", save the keystrokes.

The Cross

May 9, 2012 by agagnette (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 1274

I applaud and support the people who are gathering to keep the monument. I live in another town and I will be putting a white cross on my property in support of the monument. This honors our beloved dead who have given the last full measure... God bless the honorees and GOD BLESS THE USA

why aren't there rallies about the school board defecit?

May 10, 2012 by woonsocket_rocket (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 1281

I am all for defending the monument, since it is a war memorial that just happens to have a cross on it.
But why is the city rallying so hard around this monument, and completely forgetting about the $10 million that disappeared this year. Where were the rallies demanding a criminal investigation? Where was the doughboy cart outside the City Cousel meeting when they decided to raise the taxes on the 40% of us residents that pay them?

The Cross

May 2, 2012 by SFCAJOHN (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1242

Why not just sell the small parcel of land on which the Cross stands to a non-profit and be done with it?

reply to SFCAJOHN

May 9, 2012 by agagnette (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 1275

what? and cave in to the atheists... no way I disagree!

The monument

May 2, 2012 by Viet vet (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1235

Let me see if I understand this, Godvlogger. The person who complained about the cross said they found it offensive to look at as they drive by daily. Its current location is not that visable unless you strain your neck as you drive by. That was that person's complaint or was it its location? So, if the city moves this monument to another location, on private property, in a much more visable location, they will no longer find it offensive to look at?
In the case of Cranston which you keep mentioning, the prayer banner was removed. If this monument to fallen veterans needs to come off city property, it isn't going away. It will just be moved to private property and more visable. Sounds more like the person waging the complaint was looking for a cause more than finding the cross offensive. As a veteran I fought for the freedoms this constitution allows, including giving you the right to post your views here and on You Tube. However, that does not include the right for anyone to force their views on others. Whether you are an atheist or believe in some god, your rights are protected. You have the right to your beliefs and I also have the right to mine. If you were ever in some foxhole at war, faced with the possibility of death, you would know that you depend on the people with you to have your back. I don't remember anyone ever asking the other guy what religious beliefs they had. They depended on each other no matter what their beliefs. This is a memorial to fallen veterans.

Atheists are Veterans Too

May 4, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 33 weeks ago
Comment: 1256

Viet Vet, firstly, thanks for your prior service to our country.
I agree with you that in the battle foxholes... military folks work together and rely on each other whether they are religious like yourself or atheists like Pat Tillman (NFL football star and Purple Heart recipient, killed in Afghanistan).

Back to your question about how about if this cross was moved to private (non-government land) but in a more prominent place. You ask whether that would make it less offensive. Well, maybe the local complainant would NOT be offended any more, because maybe they were ONLY offended by the GOVERNMENT endorsement of the religious icon, rather than the icon itself. BUT, even if the citizen was STILL offended by the cross itself (seeing it as a barbaric torture device or whatever), thus feeling offended even IF it was located in a legal place (i.e., on non-government property), then I would say "who cares if they are offended?" It mostly wouldn't matter whether the local person found it offensive, because it would be legal.

Here's a hypothetical comparison about the importance of location: let's suppose I am offended by a crazy neighbor who dresses in a KKK costume on his lawn and paints swastikas on his house. I'd find it offensive, but he's allowed to be a jerk and I would spend no legal effort to stop him. (I might just politely ask if he's ok, or ask if he could keep it indoors, but he could decline my requests and then I'd let it be.) *BUT* if he painted that trash on my car, or on our local school, or on town hall, and if he used that KKK costume to intimidate a new black family in the neighborhood by dancing on their front porch, then he would be doing ILLEGAL activities and I would ask the police, etc., to legally put an end to it.

Seriously?

May 2, 2012 by Working Stiff (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1232

This cross issue is a side show. A "feel-good", "rally around the flag," kind of issue that will get the people off the real topic. And that is, the city is going broke, a supplemental tax was just approved and the rich are going to soak the little guy again and to do it we're going to get them distracted with a cross on public property fight.

Wake up, the only ones that will get anything out of this are the lawyers, they'll rake in six-digit fees when the city can least afford to pay them (offers of free legal representation are a joke, don't believe it for a second).

Its sad that our country has

May 2, 2012 by lorie01504 (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1231

Its sad that our country has to act this way. I am ashamed of our country. A city resident complained about the monument so lets take it down ?? Let me ask this single city resident this or anyone... If you had a family member that gave there life for this country or for someone else and there name was on a monument how would you feel if one person or many people felt offended and wanted to remove your brave family member. Instead of wasting peoples time and money lets reform "welfare" lets help the seniors,homeless,starvation, etc. If you don't like it don't look at it. Its been there for 100 years. There are alot of things that I feel offends me..for example I'm a working citizen with children but I get nothing for "FREE" I have to be on welfare to get a free phone my bills paid for me well thats not fair to me ..Trust me if you are focused on something thats been there for 100 years and represnts brave people you have to much time on your hands and maybe USA is not for you.

The battle must be won....

May 1, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1216

Isn't it odd that one individual complained they were offended by this monument located on city property but did the Precious Blood Cemetery get a letter as well? It's private property but crosses abound and visible to this same person.

Some people just like to stir the stew and have fun watching their actions get legs while causing this storm we now see. Sad part is that it cost everybody money that could have been better spent. It also smells of total disrespect for the reasons this monument was erected in the first place.

As a war veteran and proud citizen, I'm behind doing battle. The monument and the memory of the fallen soldiers will prevail.

Charge!........

Let's Stick It To The FFRF !!!!

May 1, 2012 by Jeffo46 (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1215

I'm glad to see that the city is going to be fighting back. I've tried reasoning with the FFRF on their Facebook page and I've never come across a more ignorant group of bullies in my life. They are the type of people where if you are not with them, then you are their enenmy. It doesn't matter what you have to say. If you don't agree with their beliefs, you're looked down as a idiot and treated as one. We as a country, are, thanks to Congress, are slowly losing our rights on a day to day basis as it is. Do we really need a outsider group coming into out city and telling us what is acceptable and what isn't just because they don't like something ? Hell no ! The monument that is erected, is there for a reason , and no way should it be altered in any way just to appease a group of idiots who have nothing but hate and ignorance in their hearts. No, I say we fight the good fight and stick up for what is ours and to hell with the FFRF !

FFRF will WIN in court

May 1, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1220

You propose that the city fighting this will "stick it to FFRF".

Do you mean the same was that East Cranston, R.I., stuck it to FFRF?

Do you "stick it to FFRF" by wasting LOTS of local taxpayers' money? (the promised free legal help seems to disappear and then your city gets stuck paying the legal fees of the winner's attorneys, i.e. you pay for FFRF's attorneys).

Do you "stick it to FFRF" by creating religious divisiveness in the city for months or even years to come?

Do you "stick it to FFRF" by having the person who lives IN this city end up getting death threats, etc. (like is happening to the high school girl in East Cranston, just for her pointing out the law, and the courts agreed with her)?

How exactly does this "stick it to FFRF"?

Free Legal Help will DISAPPEAR

April 30, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1212

The so-called "FREE" legal help usually disappears once the case gets deep into it and most commonly towns LOSE these cases.
Look at what happened in East Cranston.... wasted time, money, angst, divisiveness.
Even IF the city got "free" legal help, when the city loses (which they would) the city (taxpayers) end up paying for the legal fees of the lawyers for the group that would sue to remove the cross.
Just remove the illegal cross and leave the legal part of the monument in place.

Several thoughts

April 30, 2012 by paulie1029 (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1209

1. The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." This monument wasn't created by an Act of Congress. How did such a simple statement get perverted into 'ban every symbol of freedom from every state, city and town?
2. I grew up on Cass and Gaulin Avenue; we used to ride our bikes past this monument to the river behind the fire station. How many people in Woonscoket even knew this monument existed before this controversy? Why not move it to a more prominent location on private proeprty and negate the argument? In the Flatlands by the Marquette (Citizens?) building would be great.
3. You've got to totally take your eyes off the road when you 'drive by' on Cumberland Hill Road. But if you are a firefighter and drive into the station every day you see it and are probably on your way to work when you are 'annoyed' by the sight of it

US Constitution precludes government endorsement of religion

May 1, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1221

Paulie1029 asks why the US Constitution should apply to local governments, rather than only applying to Congress.

The answer is that this point has been legally settled long, long, ago.
Otherwise, you could decide that in some states women no longer have the right to vote, or that in another state slavery is still legal, etc., since it would only be the LOCAL government (not congress) imposing the violation of the US Constitution.

If you live in the USA, the Constitution applies to all of us.

US Constitution precludes government endorsement of religion

May 1, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 34 weeks ago
Comment: 1222

Paulie1029 asks why the US Constitution should apply to local governments, rather than only applying to Congress.

The answer is that this point has been legally settled long, long, ago.
Otherwise, you could decide that in some states women no longer have the right to vote, or that in another state slavery is still legal, etc., since it would only be the LOCAL government (not congress) imposing the violation of the US Constitution.

If you live in the USA, the Constitution applies to all of us.

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