Free speech protesters in Minnesota quickly realized that a victory for them could benefit more than just their own cause.
For years a monument, lovingly referred to as “Joe,” has sat in Belle Plaine, Minn.’s memorial park to honor fallen veterans of war. The monument features a kneeling soldier, clutching a rifle, looking down at a cross.
After someone complained that they were uncomfortable with a religious symbol being displayed on public property, city leaders had to decide whether to keep or remove “Joe” from the park. In fear of a lawsuit, they chose in favor of the constitutional separation of church and state, thus removing the monument from Belle Plaine’s Veterans Memorial Park. This led more than 100 Belle Plaine residents to rally together to protest for “Joe’s” return.
For nearly a month, protesters gathered at the park to demonstrate their anger over the monuments removal. Some rebelled against the city leader’s ruling by bringing their own handmade crosses to stake into the ground where “Joe” used to sit.
City leaders then had to come up with a way to maintain the separation of church and state while appeasing the growing group of protestors. Eventually they designated a small portion of the park’s property as a “free speech zone.” Up to 10 monuments are allowed to temporarily be displayed in this zone at a time, provided they honor veterans.
The free speech zone has granted “Joe” reentrance into the park, but protesters have found themselves confronted with a new issue. The Satanic Temple in Salem, Mass. Plans to add its own memorial to the free speech zone: “A black cube, inscribed with inverted pentagrams and crowned by an upturned helmet” (Sawyer, 2017).
Doug Mesner, founder of the Satanic Temple in Salem, explained to the city leaders that the group does not worship Satan nor is their monument meant to offend anyone. Instead, they hope to provide the park with a memorial that is inclusive to non-religious veterans.
When asked, residents who protested have explained they knew this could be a possibility after the free speech zone was established. They are less offended than they are annoyed.
Regardless of their annoyance, the Satanic Temple in Salem did their research and have created a monument that meets all of the city’s requirements. The memorial was approved and will be added to the free speech zone soon.
To learn more about this topic please read “Belle Plaine veterans park to include satanic monument.”
Sawyer, Liz. “Belle Plaine veterans park to include satanic monument.” Star Tribune. Star Tribune, 29 Apr. 2017. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.