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Michigan man visits City Hall to give fund $1,000

May 1, 2012

Dennis Masson, of Spring Lake, Michigan, left, presents Woonsocket Mayor Leo Fontaine with a check for $1,000, the first official donation for the monument defense fund, at City Hall Tuesday. (photo/Ernest A. Brown)

WOONSOCKET — The monument defense fund hadn’t even been officially created yet, but Mayor Leo Fontaine accepted the first donation, hand-delivered, all the way from Spring Lake, Michigan.
“I really had no idea this was going to happen,” said Dennis Masson, as he wrote a check for $1,000 to the fund at City Hall yesterday afternoon.
Masson said he was having coffee with his wife at home in Michigan last Thursday when Fox News broadcast a story about Woonsocket’s troubles with a Latin cross on a World War I Monument and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation. The self-described guardian of the First Amendment claims the cross is a violation of separation of church and state and wants it removed.
A Woonsocket native from a military family, Masson said he was already planning to come to Woonsocket for his brother Richard’s 70th birthday, which was yesterday, when he heard the story.
But as he sipped coffee with his wife after the Fox News broadcast, he told her, “You know, I don't know if they have a defense fund or not, but if they do I’d like to make a contribution.” And so after making an e-mail inquiry with Mayoral Aide Linda Plays, Masson decided to arrange a detour from his brother’s birthday festivities in Holliston, Mass., to make the donation at City Hall.
“My father served in World War II,” he said. “I’m a retired Air Force officer. My son and his wife are both Army officers who’ve been to Iraq and Afghanistan a couple of times and I have another son and a daughter-in-law who are in the military.”
Masson graduated from Woonsocket High School in 1962 and hasn’t lived in city since he joined the Air Force five years later. But the FFRF’s attack on the monument rekindled an emotional tie to his roots with a fervor that came as a surprise even to Masson.
“I’ve seen this on the TV where it’s happened to other towns, but this just felt personal all of a sudden,” he said.
Fontaine called the donation a fitting tribute to the memory of war veterans.
“I’m just humbled and honored that he would be willing to donate, and from so far way, to be able to do this for the city,” said the mayor.
Masson’s donation may be the first, but similarly emotional pleas for the defense of God and country have led many others to pledge support for a possible legal battle to save the cross, according to Plays.
A big display of that passion is expected today as a well-publicized rally in support of the monument gets under way at Place Jolicoeur, the site of the monument, at 4:30 p.m.
Plays said the city has been besieged with e-mails and phone calls for information about the rally from veterans groups and Catholics all over the state. WPRO talk show host John DePetro, master of ceremonies, has been promoting the event nonstop, even posting on his Facebook page a map of Woonsocket with directions to the rally, outside Fire Station No. 2 on Cumberland Hill Road.
While the FFRF hasn’t yet filed a formal legal complaint against the city – and it’s unclear if it will – the controversy already has the makings of a full-blown, hot-button brouhaha. A local cottage industry has sprung up around the confrontation, with Pepin Lumber marketing white crosses similar to the one that appears on the disputed marker. Some have already sprouted on lawns about the city.
Richard Fagnant, a member of the Zoning Board of Review who runs a silk-screening business, has informed the mayor that he intends to print and sell tee-shirts with a pro-monument logo on them. Fontaine said Fagnant and Pepin Lumber have both pledged to turn over the proceeds to the monument defense fund.
Dedicated on Nov. 13, 1921, the monument at the center of the vortex was dedicated to the memory of Army Pvt. William Jolicoeur, who was killed in World War 1.
It was later rededicated in 1952 as a tribute to three sons of Bernadette Gagne – Alexandre, Henri and Louis, all of whom were killed in World War II.
Some city officials argue that the cross is not a religious symbol but a historical artifact intended to mimic the crosses in the cemetery where Jolicoeur and thousands of other war veterans are buried, the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France.
But the FFRF informed the mayor last month that the cross runs afoul of the constitutional prohibition on state-sponsored religion and must be removed. The demand was triggered by a complaint from someone who sees the monument regularly and is offended by it, the national nonprofit organization says. FFRF won’t say who that individual is.
Officials say they won’t accede to the FFRF’s demands, and the City Council last night was expected to establish “The City of Woonsocket War Memorial Defense and Preservation Fund” to accept donations for the purpose of engaging the group in a possible legal battle over the monument.

Comments

Although I don't know for

May 2, 2012 by KHatfull (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1241

Although I don't know for sure I'm quite inclined to think that neither the Congress of the United States or the State of Rhode Island authorized, paid for, or demanded the monument in Woonsocket be erected.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

It's really simple, clear, and succinct.

People with such fervor should direct their energies at real problems like hunger, crime, corruption in government, and a whole host of things that need real attention.

It's time the true hard

May 2, 2012 by tjgovenor (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1240

It's time the true hard working Americans stand up and protect what our forefathers fought so hard for.
This should serve as a wake up call for us all that our fellow citizens ,with nothing better than free time on their hands,have to take a few minutes out of their day to attack a monument they pretend to feel is offensive to their beliefs.
You have to ask yourself should a monument dedicated to people who served our country to protect and provide a life of freedom and justice to every American regardless of religous beliefs be removed.
Sure this cross is on public property,so are we going to remove crosses from graves of loved ones in public cemetaries.
Think about who the monument is dedicated to before you feel so offended by it.
IF an atheist fought in a war to protect America and our freedom,had a monument dedicated to them ,I would have nothing but respect for it regardless of their beliefs
All the money in your pocket has a phrase on it IN GOD WE TRUST.
If you are that offended I am willing to take it off your hands.

History and Civics Lessons Badly Needed

May 2, 2012 by Ruth1940 (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1239

A cross has never been a symbol for the United States of America or for veterans. People of all religions and none (such as Pat Tillman) have served (and died for) our country. To have put the cross up in the first place was likely simply ignorant, but to insist on keeping it after being advised is unconscionable.

It is reasonable to believe that some Jewish Americans think of the centuries of Christian ant-Semitism when they see crosses and that Muslims would be reminded of the Crusades.

Apparently many in this town are unaware of the war heros of religions different from theirs. Or are they unaware of the history of the cross in connection with Christianity? Surely they have better uses of their money than to fight this.

Religionists just love to spread the myth that there are no atheists in foxholes (much as they like to spread their myths about gods) Some other atheists in foxholes: www.militaryatheists.org/expaif.html

Not so fast

May 2, 2012 by The Chorus (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1229

The legal precedent in this case is not so clear and cut and dry as was the case with the Cranston mural. Does this cross really offend you? Are you offended that people of faith gave their lives to preserve your rights and freedoms? Get a life.

2010 Salazar vs. Buono

May 2, 2012 by vvet818 (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1228

The Supreme Court decision supports the generally held opinion that a cross can be legally displayed on public land as a war memorial.

Wasting Money on the Cross

May 2, 2012 by GodVlogger - on YouTube (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1224

I am sure that the man donating his money is a nice guy whose heart is sincere, but you would need hundreds of thousands of former Woonsocket natives to even start to make a dent in the potential legal costs.

The groups that promise free legal services end up disappearing, the town will almost certainly lose the case (there have NEVER been a Supreme Court case that has allowed a permanently erected cross on government land), the city's taxpayers then end up having to pay the legal fees for the OTHER sides attorneys (hundreds of thousands of dollars).

All of this to defend an ILLEGAL display that *VIOLATES* the US Constitution.

I have a few videos about the Woonsocket Cross, posted on YouTube, if you care to consider viewpoints other than your own.

~~ GodVlogger (on YouTube)

Separation of church and state explained

May 2, 2012 by breezesa (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1234

To Correct GodVlogger, there is nothing in the first amendment that says "separation of church and state". It was written in a letter from Thomas Jefferson and unfortunately it stuck and has been misinterpreted for years. The first amendment is provided to make sure that the people can practice their religion without the interference of the government. That's very different from someone having a problem with putting a cross on government property. In fact as the government tells us that we CAN'T do that, THEY are the ones doing something illegal and violating the US Constitution. Please read the first amendment and be educated.

No such thing as separation church and state

May 2, 2012 by breezesa (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1233

To correct GodVlogger, the first amendment does NOT state anything using the words "separation of church and state". Thomas Jefferson said that in a letter once and it stuck, unfortunately and we've been fighting about it ever since. The first amendment provides for the safety of the people to practice their religion free of government interference! That is very different from not putting something religious (like a cross) on government property. Actually for the government to interfere and say that we CAN'T put the cross there is the actual illegal act and IT violates the first amendment. Get with it people. Read the first amendment and be educated.

2010 Salazar vs. Buono

May 2, 2012 by vvet818 (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1230

LEGAL REPORT April 28, 2010

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The U.S. Supreme Court today overturned a lower court ruling that had ordered the removal of a cross from a World War I memorial located in California’s Mojave National Preserve. Prior to the high court’s decision in this case, Salazar v. Buono, a federal district court had ruled that allowing the eight-foot-tall cross to remain on the preserve (which is a national park) violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. The same district court later ruled that a 2003 federal law aimed at eliminating the Establishment Clause problem by transferring the property around the cross into private hands was an invalid attempt by the U.S. Congress to evade the district court’s earlier ruling. But in its decision today, a divided Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the lower court had not properly considered the validity of the congressional statute transferring the property, known as Sunrise Rock, from public to private hands.

Arlington Cemetery

May 2, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1227

I believe somehow this monument in Woonsocket may have the same status as the markers at Arlington Cemetery. The grave markers are for the same purpose of honoring our military heroes and reminding us of the soldiers who have given their lives for you, me and our families.

Maybe we can study how the cemetery located in Arlington gets away with it and do the same. Better yet, more of these markers need to be made and put on the lawns of homes in Woonsocket. In adddition, a photo of markers at Arlington need to be put on the website for the Woonsocket Fire Department. Where's the crime there?

Where have you been all these years?

May 2, 2012 by Marcel (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1226

You obviously haven't been reading what this monumwnt stands for. It represents fallen soldiers, specifically four that were from Woonsocket. Go to the museum on Main St, there are many more.

Just this past month of April saw 33 of our soldiers killed in action. What sacrifices have you made other than throw barbs at those that honor our veterans and understand that this monument is identical to markers in Europe and Arlington Cemetery. Go protest the markers there and see how successful you'll be.

I'm ashamed for US citizens who have your attitude. There's no way you'd show your face at a public meeting about this matter. You'd better understand from others how I feel about you right now.

Signed, a Vietnam Veteran.

Military Headstones

May 4, 2012 by BillC (not verified), 2 years 24 weeks ago
Comment: 1252

What's really shameful is the way religious conservatives lie to try to advance belief in their imaginary friend. Anyone who has been to Arlington or seen it on the web knows that the headstones are rectangular with a curved top, not a latin cross as the Woonsocket memorial is.

http://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Headstone/DesignerIntro.aspx

Furthermore, the list of approved emblems from the VA

http://www.cem.va.gov/hm/hmemb.asp

include many symbols other than the latin cross, including an atheist emblem.

If the Woonsocket memorial were just like an Arlington headstone, with no religious symbolism, the FFRF would not be involved. It is the insistence of the religious to force their view on the rest of us that has caused the push back.

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