Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Cross in Providence...

In Rhode Island, there's a cross on public land. It's not the one in Woonsocket, it's the one in Providence, on a city owned median strip located at about 14 Pleasant Valley Parkway near the Coca-Cola plant.

The Humanists of Rhode Island sent a letter to Providence Mayor Angel Tavares, asking that the cross be removed, as the presence of a cross on public property violates the First Amendment. Certainly there is no secular purpose for this cross, as is argued in the case of the cross in Woonsocket. No veterans are being honored at this site, the cross exists purely to evangelize Christianity.

Here is the text of the letter sent to Angel Tavares:
Dear Mayor Tavares,

I am writing on behalf of our group, Humanists of Rhode Island, because we assume you are unaware about a cross on publicly owned land in Providence Rhode Island. The cross is located on what we believe to be a city owned median strip located at about 14 Pleasant Valley Parkway near the Coca-Cola plant. I am not of the impression that this cross was erected by anyone acting on the behalf of the City of Providence, or that the cross in any way serves as a marker for an accident victim. This seems to be the construction of a private citizen using public lands to create a permanent fixture for the purpose of proselytizing, and as such is in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, which neatly and essentially separates church and state.

I have enclosed several pictures of the cross in question.

Because the United States Constitution requires government to treat all religious viewpoints equally, failure to remove the cross indicates that the City of Providence intends to administer this median as a limited public forum whereby all religiously themed groups will have equal space and access. Should the cross not be removed, Humanists of Rhode Island plans to erect an icon of similar size and visibility on the median, and will vigorously defend other religious groups who wish to do the same.

Naturally, the City will be responsible for ensuring a fair and equal distribution of land area so that no one religion dominates, and for investigating and prosecuting any instances of vandalism that may hinder the free speech and free exercise rights of unpopular religious groups.

However, this solution is not our preference.

We respectfully ask that this cross be removed from public land. We do so as a local group, without the involvement of the ACLU, or the Freedom from Religion Foundation, or any other national group because we feel that as Rhode Islanders that we can deal with this matter “in house” as it were. We do not see the need for making a gigantic case out of this issue. The cross in question was not erected years ago, is not a tribute to fallen soldiers, and is not sanctioned by the city. The removal of this cross should really be no big deal.

Thank you for your attention to this matter and we eagerly await your response,
Steve Ahlquist
President, Humanists of Rhode Island
Here are some additional photos of the cross in question:


  1. Before you notify the ACLU or FFRF, I would first try calling the mayor's office. Then if that doesn't work, perhaps we can all get together and construct an atheist icon to put in the median. If this is removed, then we can notify a legal group. Not only would this help the case even more (the City would be showing not just favoritism for Christianity but also contempt for atheism), but would make Humanists of RI more favorable in the public eye (you can say "We didn't want to take the cross down; we just wanted the same rights for all religious groups too").

  2. At this time we have no plans to involve any national groups. We would prefer to handle this politely and without undue confrontation.

  3. Any idea who erected it? It looks like somebody just took it upon themselves.

  4. Jesus tittyfucking christ, leave it alone you corn balls. I'm not even religious at all, but in the 6 months I've lived in Rhode Island this is now the third time groups like yours have protested something because it's "too religious for you!"

    How about instead of wasting your time writing overwrought letters to the mayor and spending more time thinking about the cross than I'm sure even a super religious little granny would, why don't you spend your time trying to improve this messed up state in actual ways that aren't stupid?