May 7, 2017
A veterans’ memorial park in Minnesota will soon include a satanic monument after a free speech debate sparked by the removal of a cross from a statue of a praying soldier.
The memorial from the Satanic Temple in Salem, Massachusetts, features a black cube with inverted pentagrams, a soldier’s helmet and a plaque honoring veterans who died in battle.
Local media and wire service reports downplayed the significance of the town council’s decision as an “unintended consequence” of protests by residents after the removal of a cross near another statue in the park. The reports cited only members of religious groups resigned to the seeming fairness of the decision.
Satanic Temple officials were exuberant.
“While classical depictions of Genesis-inspired Satanic imagery and Romantic Literature-inspired Luciferian art can be found scattered worldwide, this is the first Satanic monument erected by Satanists on public property,” the group’s spokesperson, Lucien Greaves said.
The city of Belle Plaine decided to allow the monument in its Veterans Memorial Park after the Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened to sue over another statue that features a soldier praying over a grave marked with a cross. The cross was removed, but many local residents demanded that it be put it back.
City Administrator Mike Votca said the city decided it had to include everyone, so it created a free speech area for all — as long as the tributes honor veterans.
A Satanic Temple official, Doug Mesner, claimed the group doesn’t worship Satan, but is a non-theistic, religious group.
Residents of the town of about 6,700 protested the city’s initial decision to remove the cross as an insult to veterans who sacrificed their lives. For nearly a month, protesters occupied the park daily and put their own handmade crosses in the ground.
“The residents feel a sense of duty,” Andy Parrish, a Belle Plaine resident who led the effort to restore the cross, said at a City Council meeting, according to an AP report. “Our veterans defended us and it’s our duty to defend them.”
Greaves praised the decision by the Belle Plaine city council which he characterized as “professional and respectful at all time”.
“They adopted a clear set of guidelines which they adhered to. There was no push-back,” Greaves said. “Belle Plaine recognized the legitimacy of our request and followed the law as it applies to public forums.”
Larry Ruehling, commander of the Belle Plaine Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post, said he believes there is an element of publicity stunt to the organization’s application.
“If they want a monument out there, maybe they can help contribute to putting up flags,” Ruehling told the Belle Plaine Herald.