Church-State Separation Group Challenges Woonsocket Memorial

Letter to Mayor requests removal of Latin cross at fire station monument, image and prayer from Fire Department web site.


An activist organization committed to the principle of separation of church and state has asked the city to remove a Latin cross, part of a 1921 memorial to fallen veterans at at 5 Cumberland Hill Road.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has also asked that the Woonsocket Fire Department remove an image and prayer from its website, citing their religious nature. The Firefighter's Prayer, a poem written in 1958 by firefighter A.W. "Smokey" Linn, according to FireMemorials.com, is in widespread use on memorials across the country.

The FFRF sent a letter of complaint to Mayor Leo Fontaine April 13 (see attached .pdf) about the cross and web site, asking the city to remove the religious references and symbol.

The letter states the organization was made aware of the memorial and web site posts by a concerned Woonsocket resident. "It is unlawful for a city government and its agencies to display patently religious symbols and messages on city property," wrote Rebecca S. Markert, a staff attorney for the FFRF.

A post on Myfoxboston.com reports local veterans oppose the attempt to have the cross removed.

MAE April 26, 2012 at 08:59 PM
All I have to say is...OH MY GOD! Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It's time the supreme court started honoring the Constitution and not interpreting it based on the minority. As for GOD being in the Declaration of Independence (written by Thomas Jefferson) it states "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." & "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Just in case the athiests out there don't know,"divine Providence" means GOD, whomever you choose it to be. Next they'll be telling us to change the name of the state capitol.
Mark Wyman April 26, 2012 at 09:22 PM
May can you explain why thes same people who said We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness where slave holders if they really didn't beleave that ALL MEN were created equal probably were not too concerned with a creator either. It also never states who that creator was and never mentions Christ because most of the founders were not really Christians or they would acknowledged him.
Mark Wyman April 26, 2012 at 09:26 PM
But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782
Mark Wyman April 26, 2012 at 09:31 PM
“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” —Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823
la_mouffette April 27, 2012 at 01:49 AM
*raises hand* very civil, very rational Christian here, not afraid of anyone based on their personal religious or irreligious beliefs. I'm not engaging in this lower debate, for those reasons. I hope I'm not part of your "contrast", Robin =) I respect the separation of Church and State, and think it is of great benefit to both sides. I just don't think this is something that should be a big Church-State issue. Since it represents four specific Christian men, this is more like one of the cross-shaped memorials in a military cemetery. This isn't something to go to court over... at most, the small parcel of land should be legally transferred to a veteran's group. Perhaps a small plaque can be placed, indicating who is responsible for it?
la_mouffette April 27, 2012 at 01:53 AM
Shill, if you really want to be a shill, you can't label yourself as "the Shill". That blows your cover, man. Either you're a shill and label yourself as something else, or you're not a shill. Not picking on you...just a fan of Carniespeak ;)
hope henry April 27, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I think that the removal of religious references is just getting out of control. I do not see a problem with the cross and prayer being on the monument. I am a city resident and I am Wiccan. I do not get offended by seeing a Cross, an Om, or any other religious icon anywhere. Everyone has the freedom of religion and if the sight of it bothers you then look the other way. This is a historical monument and the prayer written by a Firefighter for his fallen brothers. It is not offensive. It is a sign of respect and emotion. Things in this country are being taken so out of proportion. Freedoms in the United States are not really freedoms anymore - you cannot show God in anything regardless of your God. Maybe if people went back to religion, any religion and raised their children with a religion and respect for other's religions and the acceptance of same then we wouldnt have so many issues on the subject. You know it's really sad when money is being spent to fight for and defend the removal of a historical monument because someone isnt of that religion and "they" find it offensive rather than admiring the art work, respecting the fact that these men gave their lives and appreciating that. Really, what is this country coming to? Funny, people came here and started this country to be free and have certain freedoms and now people are trying to change that. Just too sad.
Dilberth April 27, 2012 at 03:12 AM
If you are attending the rally, please don't block the entrance to the fire station. As we all well know by now, Christians block a lot of things: Science, evolution, logic, reason etc. In their tiny minds, faith is all that matters. They are judged not by reality but by how much piety they have. Christians will do as they please unless their pastor tells them not to block fire engines and emergency vehicles.
Jim April 27, 2012 at 04:50 AM
What everyone seems to forget, atheists and religious, is that there is a difference between separation of church & State as well as separation of church & god. God is not the church and the church is not God. The church or any religious organization is merely a vehicle invented by man as a path to God (I am not saying that this is a bad thing). The entire basis for separation of church and state is to prevent one from having control of the other. It does not mean that government cannot invoke the name of God. The proof is in the fact that our very own founding fathers, even after writing the constitution separating church and state, invoked the name of God. You can see it in the inscriptions and stained glass windows of the governmental buildings that they (our fore fathers) erected. They left the personal choice of God up to individuals.
Joe The Plumber April 27, 2012 at 05:27 AM
Our forefathers also made God and his teachings the benchmark of everything they wrote. They believed our rights came from Him.
Joe The Plumber April 27, 2012 at 05:29 AM
Dial berth if you go, would you please introduce yourself.
Robin Lionheart April 27, 2012 at 09:58 AM
@Jim Atheists have no trouble at all remembering that the church is not God. Churches exist.
jde April 27, 2012 at 01:00 PM
What bugs me about this whole thing is people's ability to be offended by things that they could quite easily ignore. This goes for all of the religious and non-religious out there who rail against the people who don't believe in what they believe in. The mere presence of something should not offend anyone. There are many things that I do not like but which I do not incite action against: processed coconut, for example. If it is in something, I just don't eat that something. I don't try to have it banished from existence. I also don't particularly like "modern" architecture. If the government builds a modern looking building, I don't try to have it demolished, I just deal with it. The government is not endorsing the eradication of all nice architecture by building something ugly. That building isn't causing me physical or emotional harm because I don't like it. Our nation was founded on principals that would allow tolerance of others. Now, it seems, tolerance is getting harder to find. People are reverting to seeing their way as the only way. It's sickening to see people looking for something to fight about rather than just being accepting of those around them who have different ways of living.
Robin Lionheart April 27, 2012 at 01:14 PM
We do not have a right not to be offended. If the “mere presence of something” “offends anyone”, too bad for them. Offensiveness was never the issue. It's about violating separation of church of state. Our government may not show favoritism toward any religion.
jde April 27, 2012 at 01:52 PM
In this case we have a memorial, and the people who are memorialized were, as far as anyone has reported, Christians. So, the memorial to those specific people has a Christian symbol. Could it simply have a symbol of an eagle or something? Sure, but that's not what happened when it was constructed. At that point in our country's history, all of the same founding documents existed, but the interpretation was different. The interpretation of these issues is what has changed. It has changed in part because precedent was set in other cases, when people said that they were aggrieved or offended by the presence of religious iconography on government property. It has also changed because more people have come forward to point out what they see as violations of the separation of church and state. In some cases it is very clear that the line is crossed - obligatory prayer in schools, for example. In others, it seems that there is a level of hyper-sensitivity that is afoot, and the altered interpretation of the line between church and state is sliding to reflect that sensitivity. If the government cannot express favoritism, this goes to the definition of favoritism. Doesn't someone have to be aggrieved to make favoritism an issue? wait, there's more coming. I'm almost out of characters.
jde April 27, 2012 at 02:01 PM
That's where people being "offended" (my word) comes in. Maybe I should have chosen "aggrieved" instead. If the government were to do something that financially favors one religion over another, or over a non-religious group, then a group has been aggrieved. In this case, I presume, and please correct me if I am wrong, that the people promoting the non-religious stance (I won't blanket them with the Atheist tag because I'm sure there are some who are not Atheists), that this is seen as the government promoting Christianity. I doubt very much that a memorial with a cross on it is convincing people to become Christians. So why are the non-Christians feeling aggrieved? Someone, in this case, is feeling like they are aggrieved. I just wonder why. I think that a lot of the resentment that you're seeing is because this is a group from out of state pushing the issue (though it might be that someone from within the cty went to them for help), and because it's a memorial, which is quite different from a banner painted on a wall in Cranston. In the long run, it makes sense for the City to move the memorial, if for no other reason than to put this behind them. It will just create work and financial responsibility for a city that doesn't need to deal with this stuff right now. I think it's unlikely that the City will give the land at the fire station away. It's more likely that they'll give land away someplace else or donate this to a private cemetery in the city.
deb of see-attleboro April 27, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I think the defenders of the cross are using the wrong approach. They are spending too much time thumping the constitution and not enough time on biblical teachings. Proverb 22:28 Remove not the landmark, which thy fathers have set. (KJV) If the government removes this monument, could the action be considered a violation of the first amendment? How about a wait and see attitude? I am by no means a biblical scholar. Building a defense for the cross through the Bible must be the job of all people of faith. In this case, Christianity is the target. But who will be next? Make no mistake about it. The atheist's will have the upper hand in court. They have $$ for a collective legal representation with YEARS and YEARS of constitutional study along with rhetorical skills that will be difficult to match. Your mayor is caught between a rock (Christianity) and a hard place (atheism). God bless him.
Mark Wyman April 27, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Deb you are using the wrong approach the correct thing for you to do is to hold a prayer vigil and pry to God that he intervine and keep the monument where it is and then leave it in his hands. If it is Gods will that the monument stands then it will stay if it is not his will it will go. If you don't want to back off and leave it to a higher power then you really have no faith in your God.
deb of see-attleboro April 27, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Proverb 22:29 Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean man. (KJV) In layman's turn; mean people suck:)
Jim April 27, 2012 at 03:55 PM
@Robin agreed. But its the religious that seem to forget that the church is not God. Look at the Catholics who put the pope on such a high pedastal. The Catholic church, several hundred years ago, even went as far as to say that he is infallible. I am sorry but he is still a man who can very much make mistakes. He is not Jesus.
Joe The Plumber April 27, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mean atheist suck most.
Mark Wyman April 27, 2012 at 04:41 PM
5And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. Matthew 6:6-7 6But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.(KJV) In layman's turms: Keep your religion to yourself and out of public
deb of see-attleboro April 27, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Thank you, Shill, for quoting more biblical truths.
la_mouffette April 27, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Dilberth, I'm afraid you don't know enough Christians. Catholics, for example, are perfectly free to believe in evolution. it is considered a legit scientific theory that we can use our reason to judge. A member of my prayer group has a degree in biochemistry. I just love Logic --but of course, I mean actual Logic, the philosophical activity. Not sure if that's what you're talking about. You're really only describing certain individuals, or certain kinds of very fundamentalist Christian. I do think it's a VERY GOOD IDEA, though, to remind people that they'll be in front of a very active fire station. Perhaps this could be set up like the political pre-election rallies for Councilman Moreau were, since they also took place in front of that station but did not hamper its activity.
la_mouffette April 27, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Jim, the infallibility of the Pope doesn't mean he's always right, or perfect, or free from sin, or that everything he says or teaches is correct. Nope. It means that if he chooses to solemnly establish a teaching "ex cathedra"-- a very specific action-- that Catholics believe he is especially guided in that situation, and his teaching must be considered legitimate to the entire church. And it's not ancient. At all. It's actually quite new, just over a century old. If you watched the Colbert Report, you would know this already, lol. Now, do you have to believe this? Of course not! But, it is a common misconception. Even most Catholics don't seem to know what it means. Just thought I should clear it up.
la_mouffette April 27, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Oh, and p.s. Popes almost NEVER invoke Papal infallibility. It's very rare.
Jim April 28, 2012 at 02:11 PM
la_moufette, Thank you for clearing that up (I mean that sincerely). Just wanted to add one additional thing....the topic of infallibility did become one of the factors that caused groups of catholics to separate from Rome forming their own denomination of catholicism.
la_mouffette April 28, 2012 at 05:53 PM
While I think it's common courtesy, and almost always the right thing to do, not to forcefully push your opinions, ideas or beliefs on other people, Shill, you're misunderstanding this quote. I don't think it really applies to this question anyway, since I don't think this is a religious monument. If it were, it wouldn't belong on government property. But I can't help chiming in regarding this quote... He is telling his followers not to make a large show of their faith out of egotism. Don't be ostentatious about prayer (or charity, as he specifies in Matthew 6:3) just because you want people to think you're SO pious and a fantastic guy. Prayer should be personal and sincere, and charity should be done out of Love. But, really, this is Jesus you're quoting. "Go and make disciples of all nations" Jesus. The guy the religious authorities of his time think is TOO public about his teaching. He never, NEVER tells his followers to harass or hurt anyone who won't convert-- the harshest thing he says is: Dust off your sandals and move on. But he's pretty public about his religious actions. He never says "keep it to yourself". He says the opposite.
Ask A Stupid Question... April 29, 2012 at 11:13 PM
@William Carlucci Thanks for slightly bitter/moderately condescending reply to my post. Take digs all you would like (assumptions from a stranger are meaningless anyway), my position stands firm. This statue (and the prayer dedicated to a profession that I am sure you wouldn't have the balls to work, even on your best day) should be a non-issue. If the city of Woonsocket decided to paint biblical versus in the streets and strategically place statues of the pope in every park and playground, then yes - that would be a matter worth discussing. But this? It is a memorial, to honor the brave men of our city who fought for our freedom... and the prayer? Is as common to a FD as a Saint Florian medal. With so many problems today (in Woonsocket and nation-wide) it almost amazes me what battles people choose to fight. I am of the opinion, supported by you or not, that you show respect to these men and women - you do not attack them. I'm sure if you look hard enough, you can find some other group to take issue with.
Jennifer April 30, 2012 at 11:30 AM
YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED: Great comments make sure to show up at the RALLY to see where you really STAND. May 2, 2012 @4:30pm


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