Poll: Is Memorial Letter About Separation Or Strong-Arming?

Is a victory on principle really a victory if your opponent can't fight back?


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.

Half an hour after Tom Poole read about the FRFF's demands in The Woonsocket Call Tuesday, he began a daily vigil at the monument to support keeping it intact.

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.

skeptic4321 May 04, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Deb, what am I wrong about? Faith does amount to belief without evidence- it is defined as such in several places in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:1 and others). Christian evidence- always boils down to the Bible- non-verifiable, edited, forged, hearsay. It is not evidence- it is wishful thinking. Religion, to me, is bondage- religions do not afford freedom to think on your own. "Freethought"/non-theism allows one to see the bible, religion, Christianity, etc., for what they are. The Bible, in my opinion, is a primitive book full of internal contradictions, mythology, racism, sexism, etc. - yet "believers" always try to make some non-sensical argument to make Christianity and the Bible "fit" into some defensible position. Sorry, I was a Christian most of my life, and I now think it is all bunk- mythology, superstition, magical thinking, wishful thinking, etc. If you consider mental bondage "exhilarting and enlightening" more power to you. Obviously, I don't see religion or Christianity that way.
la_mouffette May 04, 2012 at 01:51 AM
You're dead right there, Marc. And, it's not meant to. Our general veterans' monuments, around the city, are themed in a general way (statues of soldiers, etc) as befits the kind of monument that includes ALL the fallen veterans of a war. This monument honours only four Christian men, and is a surrogate gravestone for one whose body could not be brought home. It's a different situation.
deb of see-attleboro May 04, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Skeptic: Maybe "wrong" was too strong a word. Christian denominations, biblical scholars, theologians etc differ on the definition of faith, depending on context. I adhere to the principle that God is a given. Faith is what one relies on when God seems so distant. Since being baptized as an infant, I have been a Christian. The difference now is that I have made the decision to live a Christian life. I must confess, this is all new to me. Seeing the world through the eyes of a Christian, there is no question in my mind that true bondage is man-made and is not God's handiwork. Christianity has become a stabilizing force for me in this world that has apparently gone mad. In all honesty, I have not completely surrendered to the will of God. In many respects, I am still a stubborn and willful child. It may take until my last dying breath to completely surrender. And since statistics prove 1 out of 1 of us will die, I will get there. Only then will we be truly freed from bondage. Only God knows where we will go from there.
Bill Santagata May 07, 2012 at 11:33 AM
I believe the cross in this case to be constitutional, but the fact that Woonsocket is broke does not mean it has permission to otherwise violate the Constitution. If they violate the Constitution, they will be sued and be forced to amend their behavior, their whining notwithstanding.
Bill Santagata May 07, 2012 at 11:34 AM
Also, the government can make references to a general, nonsectarian concept of a Supreme Being in a brief and ceremonial manner, as you see in "In God We Trust" and in our state constitution. A federal court would most likely not find the use of "God" in our state's constitution to be unconstitutional.


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