WOONSOCKET, R.I. (AP) — The city of Woonsocket has raised $15,000 for a fund established to defend against a potential lawsuit over a monument topped with a cross that has drawn a complaint from an atheist group.

Mayor Leo Fontaine told The Woonsocket Call this week that donations have been coming in from around the country. A local lumber company that’s been making and selling replica crosses presented the city council with a check for more than $1,100. T-shirts supporting the monument are available for $10.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has called for the removal of the cross or monument, which is on city property. The group says it violates the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state.

Fontaine is fighting to keep the memorial where it is. It honors four local soldiers killed in World Wars I and II.

State Rep. James McLaughlin introduced a bill this week that would allow for the designation of certain monuments — including the one in Woonsocket — as secular. The Democrat said any memorial that “gives us a sense of history” should be allowed to remain on public property, even if it has a religious marker.

“If you’ve ever read the inscription of a war memorial, or maybe a police or fire memorial, it’s a tribute to the people who served and gave their lives to protect this country,” he said in a statement. “It’s like a historic document, waiting to serve as a ready reminder to future generations.”

The bill has at least 40 co-sponsors.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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