On February 21 of this year, the city of Belle Plaine, Minnesota passed a resolution creating a “limited public forum” in their Veterans Memorial Park, allowing citizens to apply for a permit to erect a memorial of their choice in honor of war veterans.
As recently-released emails show, this led to a a real-life episode of Parks and Recreation, as the forum became ground zero for a battle of Good versus Evil.
Six months prior to the resolution’s passing, the Belle Plaine Vets club placed a memorial in the park depicting a soldier kneeling before a cross without permission from the City. After some began to point out the apparent religious display on public property - seen as an endorsement of a particular religion by government, in violation of the Establishment Clause - the cross was removed in January. The resolution allowed the cross to be once again placed beside the soldier.
As with everything good in this world, the Satanists just had to ruin everyone’s fun.
In March, The Satanic Temple applied for a permit to display a monument that, at that point, had not yet been constructed.
By then, word got out that some Satanists were going to be putting up a display, prompting among the public a search for reasons why that shouldn’t happen.
In response, the City Administrator explained why the proposed memorials are in line with the policy.
But the misunderstandings continued.
Again, the City Administrator explained why that’s incorrect.
By the time May rolled around, complaints were nonstop, most with an unironic “I get free speech and all, but Satan?” vibe.
And though there was the occasional endorsement of a Satanic monument …
the phone calls in opposition to the monument were so incessant that the mayor apparently had to be notified.
“In essence, you just gave the Keys to the City to Satan. Very Dumb,” read one complaint from a Floridian, who apparently attempted to invoke God’s wrath with random capital letters.
The City began tracking phone numbers, letters, and emails complaining about the Satanic monument in a spreadsheet.
One complainant provided their interpretation of the memorial’s meaning, after images of the monument’s design were released.
Another offered a special sort of congratulations.
And yet another did their part – all the way from Canada, no less – to prevent the total collapse of society this monument would herald: “Let me put it this way, if all people followed the tenants [sic] of Satanism, there could be no society only chaos with each of us only looking out for ourselves.”
Some decided to boycott the entire city.
Thanks for your input, Jim.
Then there are these gems:
Belle Plaine Reverend Brian Lynch asked permission to address the City Council, later referring to himself in the third person as an expert on “Satan and Satanic organizations and their potential consequences for a community.”
A personal favorite reference to the Declaration of Independence came later that same day, wherein it is invoked and swiftly misquoted.
In late June, The Satanic Temple sent an email indicating that their memorial was finished, emphasizing the display’s purpose of honoring veterans, and seeking to work with the City “to make sure things go smoothly and quietly as possible.”
As the emails fleshing out the logistics of the memorial’s installation continued, so too did the outrage at the thought of an impending Satanic structure. A Catholic group held a protest on July 14th. The StarTribune quoted Council Member Ben Steir expressing confusion at the protest, stating that “They’re protesting something that may or may not go up … It’s all speculation right now.” That’s an odd thing to be confused about, seeing as how The Satanic Temple had been in contact with the Public Works Superintendent and had begun to arrange a date for the monument’s installation.
“Working on that week’s schedule so I can assist you,” replied the Superintendent.
But perhaps Council Member Stier had an idea of what was to come. On July 17th, the City Council voted to rescind the resolution that created the public forum.
If nothing else, this whole fiasco served as a reminder of the stress inflicted on small town government when national attention turns its way.
In referring to the saga’s conclusion as a win-win, The Satanic Temple pointed out that the Christians can celebrate not having a Satanic memorial, while those who value Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clause can take joy in the removal of the cross whose placement in the park, after all, sparked the controversy. As the saying goes, “If we can never truly respect pluralism, perhaps we can benefit from mutual disgust.”
Read the full emails embedded below, or on the request page.
Image via The Satanic Temple Twitter