Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RI Bill To Protect Cross On War Monument To Become Law Without Governor's Signature

Last week, the Rhode Island legislature passed and transmitted to the governor House Bill 8143 Sub A (full text) which creates the "Category One Memorial Designation Commission." The Commission is charged with identifying structures, sculptures, inscriptions and icons that existed prior to 2012 that are located on government property and which have "attained a secular traditional, cultural, or community recognition and/or value." These may include memorials related to military affairs. Otherwise eligible monuments are not excluded because they have a "recognizable identification with a known or established religion." The bill is obviously aimed at protecting a memorial to World War I servicemen that features a Latin Cross and is located in the Woonsocket fire station's parking lot. The Freedom from Religion Foundation has complained that the cross violates the Establishment Clause. (See prior posting.) According to WPRI News, on Monday Gov. Chaffee sent letters to the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate indicating that the bill would become law without his signature.  He said that the bill does not change the fact that it is up to the courts to decide whether any particular monument violates Establishment Clause restrictions.