A Cross on Public Land; This Time 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 Taveras, 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 Taveras,

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steve Ahlquist is a writer, artist and current president of the Humanists of Rhode Island, a non-profit group dedicated to reason, compassion, optimism, courage and action. He also maintains the blog SteveAhlquist.com where almost all his writing can be found. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of any organization of which he is a member.

His photos and video are usable under the Creative Commons license. Free to share with credit.

Email: atomicsteve@gmail.com
Twitter: @SteveAhlquist

12 responses to “A Cross on Public Land; This Time in Providence”

  1. DogDiesel

    Just out of curiosity, is this one of those ‘adopt a spot’  type locations? It’s care seems a little more than what the city would normally do to maintain it. Either way it’s probably an easy fix and the mayor may not have known about it.

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  2. Solomon

    It’s called the establishment clause not the separation clause.
    From my simple perspective and I think in the context of the actual events of the time (1770s) religious freedom meant that no State in the Union under the Constitution could force, by law, any citizen to participate in, confess, or otherwise practice any particular State sanctioned or preferred religion (A state religion). It would also forbid the creation of a State religion with attendant threats of incarceration or imposition of any punishment upon said citizens.
     
    The objective of these freedoms was to allow citizens to believe what they wanted with no interference from the State as well as guarantee that States not mandate one religion, or sect within a religion, over another.
     
    From that point going forward governments across the land, from municipal to federal, acknowledged God, His laws, and many other events and rituals of the Christian faith (and others) with little or no dissent. That all changed in the late 1940’s when the US Supreme Court violated the Constitution by interfering in the rights of the sovereign states and prohibiting the free exercise of religion.
     
    It’s been all downhill from there.
     

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  3. krissyt

    do you people have anything better to do than to drive around R.I. looking for unconstitutional things to complain about? Get a real job.. Just saying!!!

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    1. skwerl

      Some of us work in that area, Krissy. Would you rather that we ignore the unconstitutional things that we see?

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      1. DogDiesel

        Well skwerl, unconstitutional as it may be, it ranks tight up there with my neighbors barking dog, his infatuation with fireworks, and his live music without a permit. While all illegal, I would never go out of my way to call the cops because I like to get along with my neighbor. Aren’t we all neighbors in the big picture?

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      2. Solomon

        It would only be unconstitutional if the government that sanctioned this sign did not allow other “religious” signs as well. The Supreme Court has ruled that religious displays are constitutional on government property as long as all citizens are allowed to put up similar displays. That’s the way it works in America.

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      3. Solomon

        Oh…And by the way “God bless America.”

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      4. krissyt

        Ya well I work in the area also and I can think of plenty of other things to complain about.

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  4. DogDiesel

    Sorry, ranks right up there.

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  5. leftyrite

    This is too humorless.

    Consider the rinky-dink, slightly demented nature of the cross in question.

    You’re going to get all exercised about that?

    C’mon, lighten up.

    Develop some kind of humorous campaign that will appeal to the rest of us–and maybe even make us laugh.

    We’re in a Depression. War looms on the horizon.

    Do we really need MORE grimness?

    Send a funny humanist to open mike night at Twin Rivers. Have a few ha-ha’s. 

    Laugh a little. 

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  6. leftyrite

    How about an Adopt-A-Cross program?

    With a corresponding film and slideshow?? 

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  7. leftyrite

    Cancel the Adopt-A-Cross program.

    They’re just getting over that in Mississippi. 

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