A veterans’ memorial park in Minnesota will soon include a satanic monument among its tributes, as an unintended consequence of a free speech debate. The city of Belle Plaine, about 45 miles southwest of Minneapolis, is allowing the monument in its Veterans Memorial Park after the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
A group of Satan worshippers has gotten the green light from local officials to install a statue honoring military men and women in a Minnesota park. After months of acrimony, the city decided to make part of the park a “public forum,” open to virtually any group that wants to honor the town’s veterans.
It is not the first such effort from the Satanic Temple, a provocative organization that often pushes the boundaries on free speech and religious liberties to prove a point about religion in public spaces; last year, it started its “After School Satan” clubs as a way of challenging Christian evangelical groups that sponsor after-school religious programming. But this is the first time that the group has succeeded in having a monument placed on public land, said Lucien Greaves, spokesman for the organization, which is based in Salem, Mass.
The Satanic Temple application to Belle Plaine officials described the monument as a “black steel cube with embossed inverted pentagrams with inlaid gold on four sides.”
“An inverted helmet rests on the top of the cube. A plaque on one side of the cube reads: ‘In honor of Belle Plaine veterans who fought to defend the United States and its Constitution.’ ”
The monument deal is the latest chapter in a battle that dates back to last summer, when a resident objected to a metal silhouette of an infantryman kneeling before a cross. The resident objected on the grounds that the cross violated the principle of separation of church and state.
Doug Mesner is founder of the Satanic Temple and its nonprofit group Reason Alliance. He said the group doesn’t worship Satan, but is a non-theistic, religious group.
“It’s certainly better to preserve the First Amendment than to preserve your notions of religious supremacy on public grounds. That’s certainly not what America was founded on and certainly not what our soldiers fought for,” he said.