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Lawmakers look to protect memorials

May 9, 2012

PROVIDENCE – Local lawmakers are rallying to the defense of Woonsocket’s Place Jolicoeur war memorial with legislation to protect it and similar monuments from state constitutional challenges and defend it against federal constitutional challenges.
Rep. James McLaughlin, a Democrat whose district covers parts of Cumberland and Central Falls, introduced a bill in the House yesterday that will allow any elected state or municipal official to designate any “structure, sculpture, inscription or icon” as a “category one” memorial.
That designation means that the memorial item “shall not be deemed or viewed as the making of a law regarding the establishment of a state religion.”
Additionally, the bill asserts that, “it shall be the policy of the state to defend against any non-governmental challenge to the placement or continued existence of any category one memorial item on any state or municipal property.”
It directs the state attorney general or his designee to carry out the legal defense of such memorials and establishes a $1 million special fund “to provide for the defense of and/or challenges to designation of items as category one memorial items.
The intent, McLaughlin said, is to protect “monuments and artifacts of any historical significance or value” and keep them intact in the cities and towns where they are located.
Such objects, he said, “tells the story of the history” of particular events and times in the state or its individual communities, as the Woonsocket memorial commemorates the local soldiers who died in the world wars.
He said many such monuments can bear a cross or a Star of David or a crescent relating to the Muslim religion, but that does not diminish their historical significance. “It is an historical document,” McLaughlin contends.
“How can you rule an historic document unconstitutional?”
South Kingstown Rep. Spencer Dickinson, a co-sponsor, said the bill “is the state stating it is standing behind these monuments and putting money behind them to go with it – they are traditional, they are cultural, they are historical.”
To qualify as a category one memorial, an item must meet the following criteria: It must have attained a secular traditional, cultural or community recognition or value; it must be on property owned by the state or a city or town; it may, but need not be, related to military affairs, and it must have been in existence prior to January 1, 2012.
Also, having a “recognizable identification with a known or established religion,” does not exclude an object from being designated as a category one memorial.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has challenged the Place Jolicoeur monument because it bears a Latin Cross atop a stone with a plaque recognizing the sacrifice of William Jolicoeur, a soldier who was killed in World War I and three brothers, Alexandre, Henri and Louis Gagne, who all died in battle during World War II.
In a letter to Mayor Leo Fontaine, the group demanded that the cross be removed from the site, which is on city land in what has become a fire station parking lot.
In response, about 1,000 people gathered at the site last week to demand that the monument be kept as it is, where it is. Since then, there has been no official reaction from the FFRF.
Besides McLaughlin and Dickinson, representatives co-sponsoring the measure include Cumberland Rep. Karen MacBeth, Woonsocket Reps. Jon Brien, Robert Phillips and Lisa Baldelli-Hunt and Lincoln Rep. Rene Menard.
McLaughlin said the bill will be referred to the House Municipal Government Committee, which is chaired by Brien. So far, no companion bill has been introduce in the Senate.

Comments

The bill must work!

May 10, 2012 by Titanic1912 (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment: 1283

No one should have the right to dictate how we express our religion or how we honor our veterans! Doing so is unconstitutional because it violates the first amendment's freedom of speech and freedom of religion! And it's also unpatriotic too. So the bill must work so we can not just save the Woonsocket monument but all monuments like it!

Constitution limits GOVERNMENT religious expressions

May 13, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment: 1300

This point is simple but often overlooked:
You say that the Constitution protects freedom of religion, which is true.... BUT it LIMITS the role that GOVERNMENT can play in religion.

Thus, PRIVATE citizens/businesses are guaranteed their freedom of religion, but the GOVERNMENT (as an organized hierarchy with various authorities for and over its citizens) does NOT get the rights to take sides in promoting the religions of its citizens.

The issue in the Woonsocket Cross is that the memorial is a GOVERNMENT memorial, on GOVERNMENT land, and thus is GOVERNMENT speech, which can not legal promote or favor one religion over another, nor promote or favor religion over non-religion.

Government needs to be NEUTRAL on the issue of promoting religions or religious icons, and having a GOVERNMENT owned/maintained cross is NOT being neutral at all.

Where were the doughboy carts and rallies for the school board?

May 10, 2012 by woonsocket_rocket (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment: 1282

I posted something similar on another thread, but I really want this question to get out there.
Why are the residents fighting so hard for the memorial, but were so docile about the missing TEN MILLION DOLLARS, as well as the lack of accountability and the blatant attempt to keep any kind of criminal investigation out of it?
Where were the doughboy carts outside of the City Counsel meeting where they decided to hike the taxes on the small percentage of the city that actually pays taxes?
I'm all for supporting the monument, but not if it means we turn a blind eye to this criminal lack of oversight to our budget. They managed to force us to the brink of recievership, force a tax hike on the few of us left actually paying taxes in this city, and got away with it by just saying "we never hired an accountant"???
But no, a monument in the parking lot of a closed down incinerator is way more imporatant.

Illegal laws for an ILLEGAL cross

May 9, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment: 1277

OK, so now the state government wants to rally for an ILLEGAL cross.
It shows that they know the cross violates federal laws (i.e., the US Constitution), since otherwise they would not have to try to make up new/different laws to protect it.

Sorry, guys, but the CONSTITUTION will trump local state laws.

What next? Does Rhode Island want to try making local laws that remove women's right to vote? Maybe bring back slavery? Outlaw paying federal taxes?

Are they really so naive on legalities to think that local laws trump the nation's constitution?

Do they really want to make laws to protect illegal displays?

It's not a Cross.....

May 11, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 2 years 31 weeks ago
Comment: 1288

It's a grave marker modelled after the ones that sit on all the graves of our Veterans in Arlington Cemetery and at the grave sites in Europe where many a US veteran is buried.
A religious cross has the body of Jesus Christ affixed upon it and I can see where an atheist would be offended by that cross but the grave marker on a veteran's grave is just that, a marker.
If you feel the monument should go, then donate to the ACLU with cash money bearing the words "In God We Trust" and watch to see if they take it... Then again, what would you be doing carrying around such a religious symbol?

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