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R.I. City May Battle Atheists In Court Over Christian Cross Commemorating WWI & WWII Vets
Image Credit: Woonsocket Call

R.I. City May Battle Atheists In Court Over Christian Cross Commemorating WWI & WWII Vets

"The support they’re offering may enable us to move forward with a defense of a legal claim against the monument..."

The battle brewing between atheists and Woonsocket, Rhode Island, officials over a WWI and WWII memorial on the premises of a firehouse is continuing to heat up. Last week, The Blaze reported that the secular Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) was threatening to file a lawsuit if a cross that is part of the memorial isn't removed from public lands. Now, despite initial reservations, the city may be prepared to fight to keep the monument in its current location.

(Related: Atheists Threaten Lawsuit Over ‘Unconstitutional’ RI Firehouse Cross & WWI Monument)

The initial qualms the Woonsocket officials had with waging a legal case in defense of the Christian symbol centered upon monies. After all, a courtroom battle with the FFRF would be costly and the town is currently marred with fiscal woes. But with groups like the conservative legal defense non-profit Liberty Counsel offering pro-bono support, the decision to proceed may be much easier for the community.

The Woonsocket Call has more about the city's potential change-of-heart on the matter:

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.” [...]

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.

Since news broke of the FFRF's threats, individuals have been pouring support into the city in an effort to try and save the monument. According to Fontaine, people from other states, including California, Washington State, Texas and Florida, have phone in pledging support and assistance. Additionally, numerous law firms in addition to the Liberty Counsel have offered to help out.

As The Blaze previously reported, the Christian cross, part of a WWI memorial that was built in Woonsocket back in 1921, is causing a great deal of angst among secularists who stand firmly opposed to its presence on public property. Taking on even more significance beyond WWI, the monument was re-dedicated back in 1952 to honor three fallen WWII soldiers who lived in the area and has since been a public statement of remembrance.

In a April 13 letter sent from the FFRF to Fontaine, FFRF staff attorney Rebecca Markert called the presence of the cross “unconstitutional” and claimed that a concerned citizen made the group aware of its presence. Here’s a portion of the letter (read the entire note here).

It seems the FFRF may just have a legal battle on their hands if they choose to move forward with a lawsuit (and pending the city decides to keep the cross where it is). On Wednesday, members of the public are also planning a rally in support of the monument.

(H/T: Woonsocket Call)

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