Last week the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed H8143A, a bill sponsored by Woonsocket-area lawmakers that would allow any elected state or municipal official to "identify and designate" a memorial as having "a secular traditional, cultural, or community recognition and/or value."
The bill awaits approval by Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an Independent.
FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor contends that the bill was drafted for a single purpose — to save a display of the Latin cross that is illegally positioned on public property. FFRF first protested a large cross on a memorial to several veterans in front of a fire station in Woonsocket, R.I., in April. The town has been in an uproar ever since. The bill was contrived to "save the cross" in Woonsocket. (View photos of the memorial in FFRF's original letter.)
Under the bill any Latin cross or other religious symbol can be designated as having a "secular tradition."
"We have no objection to veterans’ memorials. Our objection is to the message of endorsement of Christianity over other religions and over nonreligion. Additionally, the Christian-only memorial sends a message that the government only cares about the deaths of Christian soldiers, not Jewish, other non-Christian, and nonreligious soldiers," wrote Gaylor in a letter to Chafee.
Gaylor added that "these nonadherents include the nearly 175,000 non-Christians in Rhode Island and the 23.4 percent of military personnel who identify as atheist or agnostic or have no religious preference."
Please help! Even if you are not a citizen of Rhode Island, it is important you represent the voice of reason, especially since this case has garnered national attention.
Chafee could sign this bill into law as early as today. We need you to voice your concerns immediately! You may choose to phone and/or email the governor. Tell him that a commission cannot and should not have the power to turn a religious symbol into a secular one. Protect the First Amendment rights of Rhode Islanders by asking Chafee to "kill the bill."
Office of the Governor
82 Smith Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: (401) 222-2080
Thank you for your help!