The Freedom From Religion Foundation's (FFRF) letter to Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine demanding removal of religious symbols from a monument and city website has outraged citizens and veterans, but officials say they're not bending.
On Thursday, City Council President John Ward said the mayor's office has heard from hundreds of lawyers offering the city pro-bono legal support should the FFRF decide to take the issue to court. He said the city will do nothing unless the organization takes legal action to force the matter.
The spectre of a legal fight over the issue comes as Woonsocket citizens and offiicials are struggling to keep the city operating in the face of insolvency. Even with free legal counsel, the city still risks losing and owing damages if it goes to court.
As to the value of the FFRF argument, that a cross on the World War I monument in front of Fire Department Headquarters on Cumberland Street is illegal and must be removed, "I think it fails. It's a monument. There's nothing relgious about it," Ward said Thursday.
Not long after, retired RI Adjutant General Reginald Centracchio organized a rally to support keeping the monument as-is, to be held at the site Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
According to the FFRF's release on the issue, "...it's illegal for the city to display patently religious symbols and messages on city property. The website impermissibly demonstrates a preference for religion over nonreligion. The Latin cross at the fire station demonstrates Woonsocket’s preference for Christianity over other religions and nonreligion. Such government endorsements of religion runs afoul of the Establishment Clause of the United States Constitution."
Comments about the matter on Woonsocket Patch articles have made many readers' stance on the legal debate clear, so we're asking today if a victory on principle is really a win if your opponent can't afford to argue back. Vote in our poll below, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.