City Forming Committee On Statues

And this guy has got to go. How was this statue of cult leader Sri Chinmoy ever allowed on city property . . . in Roger Williams Park of all places? Williams rather famously espoused keeping church and state separate — it’s kind of our thing here in Rhode Island.

We already hashed out this issue back in 2005 when, following a complaint from the ACLU, Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandment monument was finally removed from the park. (The park had been home to one of DeMille’s most famous publicity stunts, one of the hundreds of Ten Commandments monuments that he so generously donated to cities and towns across the country.)

The First Amendment church-state issue is reason enough for the statue’s removal, but (surprise surprise) at the time of his death the controversial cult leader was awash in unresolved allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. His brand of weirdness included holding ‘ugliest girl’ contests (Forbes 4/14/09) and forcing female acolytes to perform lesbian acts (Salon 5.9.14).

In 2009 former cult member Jayanti Tamm wrote “Cartwheels in a Sari: A Memoir of Growing Up Cult.” From Forbes,

The guru disparaged education, so instead of doing her homework, she spent hours memorizing aphorisms and songs he wrote. Consuming alcohol, caffeine and meat; dancing; sex and dating; socializing with outsiders; and owning pets were prohibited.

But the guru contradicted himself and made hypocritical decisions. Despite his ban on pets, as a preteen, Tamm worked long, unpaid hours during the summer cleaning cages in Chinmoy’s Queens basement, where he kept his collection of exotic pets from around the world.

Now Providence residents will have a place to file a grievance of this sort, allowing issues of controversial statues on public property to be hashed out without dangerous protests and cans of paint (ProJo 9.2.20). The City is forming a Special Committee on Commemorative Works to provide a platform for

Providence’s Special Committee on Commemorative Works is accepting input through September from residents who want to apply to have a monument removed or nominate a new person or event to be commemorated. The forms to participate in the process can be found at

(I can only find the form for nominating a new work, not the form for removing an existing bad one.)

This statue went up in 2011 under Parks Superintendent Robert McMahon who retired in 2015. It can be found near the Park Avenue entrance to the park. Enter and drive right a short distance.

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