The Rhode Island legislature recently sent a bill to Governor Lincoln Chafee designating a latin cross which is part of a war memorial in Woonsocket, Rhode Island as having attained “secular, traditional, cultural, or community recognition and/or value,” notwithstanding the cross’s “recognizable identification with a known or established religion.”

Governor Chafee has indicated that the bill will become law without his signature.  The story above reports that the Governor stated that it is “up to” “the courts” to determine whether the cross violates the Establishment Clause: “‘[P]assing the bill does not change the fact-finding mission in which the courts must engage to resolve these questions.”

Actually, Governor, it is “up to” you, too.  Article VI of the Constitution is plain that “[t]he Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution . . . .”  Of course, opining on questions of this kind is politically delicate.  But it is quite wrong for the Governor to suggest that it is not explicitly his responsibility as the chief executive officer of the state of Rhode Island to form an opinion based on his own “fact-finding” about the constitutionality of this symbol.

(h/t Religion Clause blog)

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