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War Monument Cross is to Religious For Atheist Group
by Dee DeQuattro: Bishop Thomas Tobin says the challenge to the war monument that features a cross in Woonsocket by a Wisconsin atheist group is a “serious attack on religious expression and religious freedom” and that the atheists are bullying those who have faith.
“The majority now is being bullied by the minority, by the atheists and by the secularists and we feel like we are on the defensive, we are being bullied and that is not a good feeling to have,” Tobin told WPRO’s John DePetro.
“We are seeing a slow but steady erosion of a basic American value and that is the freedom of religious expression,” said Bishop Tobin. Tobin said the cross should not be taken down but he is open to relocating it to an area of more prominence where it will not be an “issue.” Mayor Leo Fontaine of Woonsocket said he is looking at spaces on private land that the monument could be relocated to if necessary. A rally scheduled for next Wednesday May, 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the monument aims to urge the city to keep the monument where it is.
Tobin told John DePetro that religion is everywhere in American society and various faiths are represented. He said that it is impossible for someone “offended” by the presence of religion to avoid it completely so they need to come to terms with it. “It is very hard to be immune to all that. If people are offended by that they have to deal with their issues,” said Tobin. “They cannot live in a bubble. They cannot isolate themselves completely from every religious expression in our nation, in our culture, in our society.”
Tobin said he does not believe the monument violates the separation of church and state despite accusations from the Freedom from Religion Foundation that the memorial is an egregious violation of the constitution. “This certainly has nothing to do with the separation of church and state. This is not the establishment of a denomination, it is not the establishment of a particular church by the state,” said Tobin, “this is a cultural symbol, this is a religious symbol that speaks to most of our people especially when it is dedicated to our war veterans I think it has a very special reverence.”
Tobin described a cross or a Star of David as a very basic expression of faith and said they are very natural symbols for U.S. citizens. Tobin said this challenge is a “very grave threat to our way of life as Americans and our freedom of religion.”
Tobin said that Rhode Islanders are in a battle for the cross and he hope that the cross will come out on top. “This whole debate about the cross is taking place during Easter season when we celebrate a victory of the cross, so, I think we need another victory of the cross in Woonsocket and I hope that will ultimately prevail,” said Tobin.
Dee DeQuattro | WPRO News