Belle Plaine (MN) Leaders May Shut Down “Free Speech Zone” Because of Satanists

Veterans Memorial Park in Belle Plaine, Minnesota is home to a controversial monument featuring a kneeling soldier in front of a Christian cross. It’s been at the center of a months-long debate over whether it illegally promotes religion — but since city officials voted to keep it in the park, it’ll have to share the space with other groups. Like Satanists.

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You can read the full backstory here, but the long and short of it is that the Freedom From Religion Foundation warned the city that the current monument was illegal. They had a choice: Take it down or allow other displays in the park.

They decided to allow other displays in what they dubbed a “free speech zone” within the park.

And now The Satanic Temple’s submission is all but ready for installation:

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There’s actually a lot of symbolism to that display, according to artist Chris P. Andres:

… 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…

Because the installation of that monument is near, there were rallies in Veterans Memorial Park today to condemn… well, I’m not sure what. The Constitution? Other opinions? Who knows.

… America Needs Fatima, a Catholic nonprofit, plans to hold a “rosary rally” on Saturday at the park, singing hymns and praying to raise awareness of what they say is Satan’s evil.

“People are kind of surprised that a public monument to Satan would be put up in a veterans park,” said Robert Ritchie, director of the group. “The devil is scary to people.”

A flier promoting Saturday’s rally noted that it is scheduled for the same date that the Crusaders took Jerusalem from Islam 918 years ago.

“This is an affront to God that must not go unanswered!” the flier reads, while encouraging people to call the city of Belle Plaine in protest.

If they’re scared of the Satanic monument, then they should encourage city leadership to take down the praying soldier display too.

What’s surprising is that the city council seems taken aback by all these protests. Like they didn’t think this would be a big deal.

Maybe that’s why, on Friday, they actually removed the kneeling soldier display:

the abrupt removal of “Joe” [the kneeling soldier] from the park and an agenda item for the Belle Plaine City Council’s upcoming Monday meeting indicated Saturday that the controversy soon may be over. The agenda includes a resolution to rescind the “public forum” area created in the park to contain religious statues, where “Joe” had been installed and where the satanic monument was to be placed.

Let’s summarize this for a moment.

The City Council placed a Christian display in a park. Atheists threatened to sue, so they declared the space a “free speech zone.” Now that Satanists are all but set to install their own monument in that space, the City Council is planning to do away with the “free speech zone” entirely.

The Satanists unexpectedly called the City Council’s bluff.

The Satanic Temple’s spokesperson Lucien Greaves invoked Lucien’s Law in a response to me:

It feels as though Belle Plaine put us through all this work simply hoping we’d not come through. Now, only when we’re following up with them to schedule a date in which we can install our monument are they suddenly scrambling to shut down the whole forum.

It wasn’t enough to tell them that they needed to be accepting of any other religious voices, they decided to wait until another religion showed up, and only then do they shut the forum down at the last moment. So, while this outcome is solidly within “Lucien’s Law,” it still rather pisses me off.

He has a right to be angry. The Satanic Temple went through the time and hassle of building a monument with the expectation that they would receive fair treatment from the government. And those elected officials, now realizing Satanists weren’t kidding around, are freaking out.

You can read the proposed resolution right here. It explains why the City Council is now having a change of heart:

… the City Council has determined that allowing privately-owned memorials or displays in its Park no longer meets the intent or purpose of the Park.

… the City Council has also determined that the continuation of the limited public forum may encourage vandalism in the Park, reduce the safety, serenity, and decorum of the Park, unnecessarily burden City staff and law enforcement, and negatively impact the public’s health, safety and welfare.

Just to be clear, atheists and Satanists weren’t vandalizing anything. So their “concern” must be that Christians might vandalize the Satanic monument. And it’s pretty damn rude of them to suggest the Satanic monument would ruin the “serenity” and “decorum” of the Park… which the kneeling soldier was an eyesore to begin with. I still don’t get how multiple monuments would “negatively impact the public’s health, safety and welfare.”

Passing this resolution would also be a slap in the face to the Satanists, who only began building their monument because they had assurance that it would be installed in this park. Greaves told me, “I think that in voting to close the open forum, Belle Plaine will clearly demonstrate that they never intended for a truly open forum at all.”

But at the end of the day, this resolution would result in the Christian display being taken down, too, which is what FFRF was calling for from the very beginning. If the City Council had just listened to them back in February, they wouldn’t have had to go through all this trouble.

The question now is where the Satanic monument will be installed if not in Belle Plaine…

(Large portions of this article were published earlier)

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