Minnesota City Eliminates Free Speech Zone Following Controversy Over Satanic Monument

BELLE PLAINE, Minn. — Council members in a Minnesota city have voted to eliminate a free speech zone that it had just created in February as a way to try to save a veterans memorial that upset atheists because of its perceived religious symbolism.

“The original intent of providing the public space was to recognize those who have bravely contributed to defending our nation through their military service,” Belle Plaine city officials said in a statement. “In recent weeks and months, though, that intent has been overshadowed by freedom of speech concerns expressed by both religious and non-religious communities.”

“The debate between those communities has drawn significant regional and national attention to our city, and has promoted divisiveness among our own residents. While this debate has a place in public dialogue, it has detracted from our city’s original intent of designating a space solely for the purpose of honoring and memorializing military veterans, and has also portrayed our city in a negative light,” they outlined.

“Therefore, the council believes that it is in the best interests of our Belle Plaine community to rescind the resolution, and bring this divisive matter to closure.”

As previously reported, the situation began last year after the Belle Plaine Veterans Club placed a memorial in the park that featured a soldier kneeling before a cross tombstone, such as are seen in some military cemeteries.

The display was erected next to an inscribed stone honoring local residents who had lost their lives in various wars, from the Indian War of 1862 to the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contended that the inclusion of the cross in the display promoted Christianity and failed to represent other religions or those who reject religion.

  • Connect with Christian News

It asserted that even though the purpose of the display was not meant to be religious, the cross grave marker made it so, and asked that the symbol be removed since its placement on city property could be construed as government endorsement.

City council met over the matter in January, and members of the Belle Plaine Veterans Club reluctantly agreed to cut the cross off the display. But as the move greatly disturbed area residents, city council members voted in February to create a “limited public forum/free speech zone” in Veterans Park to solve the issue.

“[The limited public forum] ensures that there is no endorsement of religion by the city whatsoever because the memorials that will be put up represent the citizens that put them up,” Alliance Defending Freedom’s (ADF) Doug Wardlow explained.

The grave marker was then welded back onto the monument and returned to the park.

However, seeing an opportunity, the Satanic Temple soon applied to have its monument placed in the park, and city officials said they had to allow it because of the forum status.

“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,” Satanic Temple leader Doug Mesner, who goes by the name Lucien Greaves, told the Star Tribune.

Word that Belle Plaine would have a Satanic monument in Veterans Park upset some residents, and the City was flooded with calls and emails. Council member Cary Coop told the Shakopee Valley News that the City received approximately 200 calls and emails daily.

On Saturday, over 100 people from across the nation protested against the allowance of the Satanic display, with most participating in the “rosary rally” organized by the Roman Catholic organization America Needs Fatima.

While the Satanic monument was never installed, the silhouette of a soldier kneeling before a cross grave maker has now also been removed.

Council members officially voted on Monday without comment or discussion to nix the free speech zone.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Coop said. “I think people are really, really tired of it. It’s been non-stop controversy for a year now.”

The former free speech zone will now remain empty, with the exception of the American flag.


A special message from the publisher...

Dear Reader, because of your generous support, we have received enough funds to send many audio Bibles to Iraqi and Syrian refugees displaced by ISIS in the Middle East. Many have been distributed and received with gladness. While we provide for the physical needs of the people, we seek to provide the eternal hope only found in Jesus Christ through the word of God. Would you join us by making a donation today to this important work? Please click here to send an audio Bible to a refugee family >>

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Reason2012

    The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) contended that the inclusion of the cross in the display promoted Christianity and failed to represent other religions or those who reject religion.

    Ask FFRF why they rage against a cross, let alone at a memorial for those who have died defending our freedoms, but completely ignore the growing number of public schools that force feed islam to all kids. Google public school islam and read all about the countless cases reported on by countless different sites. FFRF is proving they’re not an atheist organization but a pro-islam organization anti-Christian organization pretending to be against religion. To make it less obvious they’ll have to fake being against a tiny case of islam, but the growing list of public schools teaching all students islam while they rage against a cross at a memorial for those who have died proves they’re really pro-islam deceivers.

    • Amos Moses – He>i

      google public schools and yoga or “mindfulness” ………… more “religion of paganism” under the guise of secularism ……..

      • Reason2012

        Good point!

      • cv

        Yoga is physical training. It need not have any religious connotation, and for the vast majority in this country it does not. I have practiced it and mindfulness meditation for forty-five years. They have fantastic health benefits. Anyone can practice, as neither yoga now mindfulness require any rituals or beliefs. Mindfulness meditation originates in Buddhism, and those who understand Buddhism know that it isn’t even a religion: it’s training to calm the mind and lead to greater awareness and alertness and mental health. Jesus practiced meditation. People are too hung up on names and culture.

        • Amos Moses – He>i

          yoga is pagan religion …………

        • sandraleesmith46

          No it isn’t;; it’s part of Hindu worship and was long before westerners ever heard of it! It always has “religious connotations” regardless what you think you know about it; just as all martial arts are various forms of pagan worship systems, developed in their temples far back in antiquity. Buddhism originates in Hinduism and meditation/mindfulness is part of that Hindu belief system as well. What you believe about it is as irrelevant as what you believe about Yoga. Because just as God believes in you whether you believe in him; so does Satan, and he really doesn’t care what else it is you do or don’t believe in; so long as it’s NOT Yhwh God. Some of us who have studied these things are “hung up” on a name because we KNOW what it represents to both Yhwh God and Satan, and we choose Yhwh God’s ways.

          • cv

            As you wish Sandra. I was raised in the Presbyterian Church, baptized in the faith, and have practiced yoga and mindfulness for 45 years to combat my health problems. I have never worshipped any of the Hindu gods, nor do I believe in them. Buddhism, if you actually study and read it, and speak with people in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, you find is compatible with Christianity, because it requires no beliefs. But don’t take it from me. Look it up in Matthew, or Luke: “The eye is the lamp of the body; if the eye is open, your body is filled with light.” This is my experience. This is my understanding of Jesus. This I learned through long, hard discipline of mindfulness meditation and yoga, purifying the mind and heart. This is how i survived for decades with serious organ disease from birth, and when the doctors gave me minutes to live, am still here, because during a day long operation God visited my wife and spoke to her, and touched her, and told her it would be so, and so it was. Miracles do exist, and through mindfulness, through deep calm, you find that you do, indeed, have a conscience that shows the way. The kingdom of heaven is within. Go there!

          • sandraleesmith46

            Sorry, but I began studying religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, and cults something over 55 years ago; there is NO way to practice those things without worshiping the deities behind them. You may believe those are ” saving your life” and well they may be, but at what cost? Is it really worth your soul? Because that is the price Satan will extract. As for the Presbyterians, if you’re in PCUSA, which most are, no help there. I find the Kingdom of Heaven through Jesus and His infallible Word, not “mindfulness” or yoga. I keep solidly in mind that Satan can appear as an angel of light.

          • cv

            Naturally I would not want to persuade you otherwise, but there is a vast difference between “studying different religions” and actual practice. The study is intellectual. It’s based on other people’s experience put into words, and their experience may not even be properly reported. It’s the difference between someone telling you what it’s like to see, and actually seeing for yourself. Jesus went into the wilderness and prayed, which is very similar to meditative practices, and fasted, and these are the kinds of things I have done. When I was young I would practice all day long and into the night for weeks. It was hard. There is no point in believing me, because that’s second hand, no better than studying a book. The Word is indeed infallible—but I suggest that it can’t be understood only intellectually. The description in the Bible: If thine eye is single, thy body is full of light” is a literal description. As you relax and approach meditative absorption, an oval of light appears. It steadies and brightens, and there is the perception that your two eyes have fused into one. Then there is the perception of passing through a tunnel, and your body is flooded with light—the kingdom of heaven within. That said, it’s not easy to arrive at this state. A Christian friend of mine reported the same thing, after long days and nights of prayer. So there it is. Few want to work so hard and so long. Regardless–purifying your mind of lust, hatred, and other taints, which is what this practice does, is not something God would find objectionable, I’m sure!

          • sandraleesmith46

            I didn’t “just” study. I’ve been to various denominations’ churches, orthodox synagogues, and read the Bible cover to cover well over a dozen times, in addition to specific studies. And I DON’T open the door to Satan following unhealthy practices. Jesus does the purifying, not me. That’s His job, not man’s. The Bible warns about using pagan practices.

    • moma

      I wonder how they would like to live under islam. Especially if there are women on that board. I agree why are schools allowed to teach forced islam on the students. Home schooling sounds better and better. Let those teachers lose their jobs and then see how they feel.

    • Gerry

      Oh for chrissake! Read a different book!

  • Michael C

    I think it was entirely misguided to demand the removal of a depiction of a cross tombstone from a vet memorial.

    It’s telling, however, that the same public who defend the Christian symbol on the grounds of free speech and freedom of religion would be visciously attack the mere idea of a veterans memorial including imagery from the Satanic Temple on the same plot of public land. If you can’t see the hypocrisy in this, you’re not being intellectually honest.

    • Reason2012

      Satanism is not a religion – it’s a vile hate attack on Christianity, pretending to lift up the enemy of God. To pretend satanism is a religion is dishonest at best.

      • Lexical Cannibal

        And I’m sure they’re very sorry you feel that way. Unfortunately though, that’s not your call to make, and so long as Satanism doesn’t cross the actual line into actual hate speech, they’re just as protected by the constitution as your religion or mine.

        • Reason2012

          They crossed the line the moment they took the most evil figure from Christianity, satan, and pretend to lift Him up in a clear mocking display of anti-Christian hate. That’s not a religion.

          Hate speech is protected, but putting up monuments to mock another religion, while simultaneously lying about that mockery being a religion, is not.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Blatantly, categorically, and unequivocally false. Art is absolutely protected as speech. You know how I know that? I read it in a petition to the Supreme Court filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom and linked from this very site three days ago.

          • Reason2012

            We’re not talking about art – we’re talking about them lying that it’s a religion then using the idea that it’s a religion to do what they do.

          • Ambulance Chaser

            Something doesn’t need to have anything to do with religion to be protected speech.

      • Worf

        Well, I guess it is a good thing christians don’t have the authority to decide what counts as a religion under the law. Your thoughts and feelings toward the satanists is not relevant to their religious rights.

        • Reason2012

          Don’t need to the authority to decide that – taking an evil figure out of another religion that you hate, then pretending to lift it up to mock said religion is clearly just bigotry and hate, and certainly not a religion.

          • Worf

            From an atheist and satanic perspective, even as a made up character the god of the bible is clearly an evil figure. And just like you don’t want to see their fictional evil character represented, they don’t want to see yours. Which is why the law says all or none.

    • sandraleesmith46

      Not all Christians”attacked” it; Satan is the ruler of this world still and when he’s removed so will ALL evidence of his worship and worshipers. In the meanwhile, he can have his symbols. ALL non-Judeo-Christian beliefs are anti-God and therefore Satanic. Without denying them all now we can’t deny any. And until the return of Jesus that is the world in which we live. That said; I really don’t appreciate some of their vulgar displays, but those will go in time.

  • Amos Moses – He>i

    Minnesota has really become a cesspool …………

    • zampogna

      It’s lovely there.

      • Amos Moses – He>i

        i grew up there …. it has become a cesspool …..

        • zampogna

          It’s a lot better than the Bible Belt.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            not sure what that has to do with Mn being a cesspool …………

          • zampogna

            It just goes to show how differently you and I interpret the word “cesspool”.

          • Amos Moses – He>i

            yeah … sure …. whatever ……..

    • Ambulance Chaser

      What would a non-cesspool do in this situation?

  • FoJC

    This is the goal of the atheist/satanist, to remove public displays of religion, and, specifically, any form (real or fake) of Christianity.

    The Good News, atheists/satanists/pagans can’t stop the Word of God. All those who seek Truth will find Jesus and receive His Salvation. All those just looking for a religion are just driftwood in the seas of Unbelief. They choose Darkness, so they will get Darkness.

    Follow Jesus, find Freedom.

    • moma

      Amen. God will win, He is unstoppable.

  • ExtremeRC

    I always thought America was a free speech zone. But not in Minnesota.

    • Guzzman

      Government property is not automatically considered an open public forum. It has to be created by an act of government. But once created, an open forum must give all religious viewpoints an opportunity to express themselves.

      The city ultimately decided against that option because of the religious strife it caused. James Madison predicted this very thing hundreds of years ago. The city preferred to remove all religious displays rather than allow alternative viewpoints to be expressed. That is within the city’s discretion.

      • sandraleesmith46

        It’s not about “free speech”: it’s about honoring the lives of those who gave the last full measure so we have those rights! For any to think it’s about their personal wants/feelings is childish and foolish.

  • Guzzman

    The veterans memorial containing a Christian cross was placed on government property and gave the appearance of only honoring Christian veterans. City officials realized this created a constitutional problem and decided to create an open forum where other religious viewpoints could be expressed, including minority faiths and atheist viewpoints.

    The sensible alternative in all cases is to refrain altogether from using government and government property to promote your religious beliefs.

    • NCOriolesFan

      Your? They supported our veterans. Of course bigots only care about their own freedom.

  • A3Kr0n

    We’re all for free speech as long as it doesn’t go against our deeply held beliefs. amirite? No, I am wrong. Free speech is all about allowing that speech which makes us uncomfortable. Why would we need the 1st amendment to our constitution in the first place if everyone agreed with each other?
    This is also why the wall between church and state must be absolute, and I’m glad all religious monuments are gone from the public park.

  • NCOriolesFan

    Thank you bigots for proving once you don’t care for anyone else’s freedom except your own.

    • Ambulance Chaser

      This is the exact opposite of the FFRF’s position. They want the space open to all viewpoints or none.

      • NCOriolesFan

        NONE is appropriate for them if they can’t get their bigoted way.

        • Ambulance Chaser

          Okay, but that doesn’t respond to anything I said.

    • Croquet_Player

      Hold on just a minute. The FFRF wasn’t against the “free speech area” of the park, where any group could erect a monument. They were against one group’s monument being erected, to the exclusion of all others. And the Belle Plaine council did a great thing, which was to open a “free speech area”, so the Christian monument could stay up. But people freaked out so much when the Satanic Temple applied to erect a monument too, that the Belle Plaine council members decided to scrub the whole project. So now nobody gets a monument. I’m sorry but that’s how it works in the United States. Everyone has access to public property, or no one does.

      • Garbage Adams

        Croquet Player, do you post anywhere else? I wanted to ask you something. Not sure how best to reach you.

    • Worf

      Care to explain wanting equal representation in a public setting is putting ones freedom over others?
      I would argue that the group that wants exclusive representation is the one that thinks it has rights over others.

  • Croquet_Player

    I can’t help but find this situation ironic. The veteran’s memorial with the Christian cross was clearly illegal. However, the Belle Plaine city council found a nice work around, which was to designate a small area of the park open to all religious monuments, including the original one. So the Satanic Temple planned to erect their own veteran’s monument too. This upset people so much, The Belle Plaine council scrapped the whole idea, and now no monuments can go up. So the people who flipped out about the Satanic temple’s veteran’s memorial monument ended up getting the monument they wanted removed too. I am reminded of situations in kindergarten. “Here is a bin of toys. You may all share the toys, and play together nicely. If you cannot share, and fight over the toys, then all the toys will be taken away, and there will be no toys for anyone.” I think some people need a few remedial kindergarten playtime lessons.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of monuments or statues in parks. Perhaps it’s because I’m from San Francisco. The designer of our beautiful Golden Gate Park, John McLaren, insisted that no statues or monuments be erected. Although the enormous park is entirely man-made (mostly by his ingenious design, it used to be sand dunes), he wanted a very naturalistic look. As these things go, eventually he was overruled by city authorities, and statues started going up. So he responded by planting large rhododendron bushes in front of them. And that is why, to this day, you can be wandering around in the park and come across a surprise statue entirely concealed by shrubbery.

  • R_Giskard_Reventlov

    Similar situation happened in my hometown. Since time began the town square and fountain has been decorated at Christmas time with traditional religious symbols of Christianity like the manger, angels, etc. Then one day the atheists showed up and pitched a fit. The town council’s solution was nothing short of brilliant. They sold the square and fountain for $1 to a coalition of local service organizations like the Lions Club, Jaycees, Rotary, Elks and such. That made the square and fountain private property and there was nothing the objectors could do about it. Maintenance of the fountain is funded by private donations now.

  • locogolfer

    I think the work “religion”, except for the First Amendment, should be taken out of all politics. This inlcudes revoking the tax-free status of places of worship – they use public facilities, why shouldn’t they pay for them? No special privilege for anybody because of any or no religious belief – no discrimination claims, no special laws for Sundays, no tax breaks, nothing.

  • MARK HARRIS

    A horsefly may bite a stately horse and cause it momentary irritation but it is still a stately horse…and the other is still a horsefly!
    Ephesians 6:12 We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

  • SCOTTY LMBOBOY

    I guess it just doesn’t matter that this country was founded by Christians anymore.

  • sandraleesmith46

    How sad that politics has taken precedence over honoring the dead from your community who GAVE their lives so that we could retain the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution and you allowed the petty whining of some vocal few to deny them that recognition! You weren’t elected to your council to placate, but to make the tough choices and decisions that are RIGHT for your community and America; how is neglecting the honor of those who died for you to have that right the correct thing to do?