At Veterans Memorial Park in Belle Plaine, Minnesota, there used to be a monument featuring a kneeling soldier in front of a Christian cross, a display that’s gone up (and come back down) in several cities. It wrongly suggests that only Christian veterans have given their lives for this country and church/state separation groups have argued it’s an example of the government promoting Christianity.
Back in October, the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Rebecca Markert sent a letter to the city attorney, acting on behalf of a local resident, saying the monument needed to come down for those reasons. It seemed to do the trick.
In its reply a few weeks later, the city attorney essentially admitted that the Belle Plaine Veterans Club put up the memorial without city approval. The response said that the Belle Plaine City Council would consider at its next meeting how to deal with the matter.
FFRF has received word that the memorial statue was taken down Tuesday, Jan. 17…
Great! Problem solved. No lawsuit. No money. Just a warning leading to the city doing the right thing.
That lasted all of a couple of weeks.
After outcry from conservatives who say they love the Constitution but haven’t even read the First Amendment, the Belle Plaine City Council voted 3-2 earlier this month to move forward with a resolution that would allow the monument to go back up.
Nearly an hour of debate passed before the council narrowly approved the proposal 3-2 to designate a “limited public forum” at the park, which would accommodate up to five displays — religious or not — as long as they honor military veterans.
It was a victory for the townspeople, many of whom argued that their religious freedom had been infringed upon when the cross was removed in early January. It will soon be returned to the memorial for fallen veterans.
To be clear, they voted to have their attorney draft a “limited public forum” resolution. But tonight’s when they’re actually voting on it.
Either way, it was a dumb move. It may be legal, sure, but if the resolution passes, the elected officials are all but guaranteeing this situation is going to get even more complicated.
FFRF has already said it’ll apply to put up an atheist memorial:
Markert said the group will consider further legal action and submit its own “Atheists in Foxholes” monument to honor veterans in the town.
And today, members of The Satanic Temple are jumping into the fray with their own proposed monument:
“Presumably, the City Council expects a number or various faiths and religions to apply for the honor of representing the varying religious denominations of Americans who fought for this country. It is well-established law that limited public forums may not discriminate based on any viewpoint and must remain neutral, not endorsing one religion over another,” says attorney Stu de Haan for TST.
TST’s proposed monument falls within the size and materials restrictions of the Belle Plaine monument protocols, and was designed by artist Chris P. Andres, who describes it as an “allusion to the cube of perfection of a master mason as a symbol of humanistic perfection through curiosity and reason. The four pentagrams recall the four corners of the earth — they serve as a reminder to the viewer of the soldiers that sacrificed. The empty helmet is now a Baphometic bowl of wisdom, a void, a protective vessel of the mind and intellect — memories of the fallen can be psychically deposited, physical notes, names, fruit offering can be left in the monument — This monument produces an interaction…”
Christians are going to love this. And if they don’t, they should vote against the resolution tonight.
(Large portions of this article were published earlier)