The cross in this display at Veterans Park in Belle Plaine will be removed following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The soldier and rifle will remain.
The cross in this display at Veterans Park in Belle Plaine will be removed following a complaint from the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The soldier and rifle will remain.
Cross From Veterans Park Display to be Removed

by Dan Ruud
“A Minnesota town is mulling over a religious veterans war memorial. We need to persuade city officials to proceed in the right manner.”
The “town” referred to is Belle Plaine and the statement comes from the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) website.
“In Veterans Memorial Park in the city of Belle Plaine, Minn., there is a display of a soldier kneeling before a Latin cross next to the Veterans Memorial Stone. This display was reportedly added to the park very recently,” continues the FFRF complaint, which it has presented to the city of Belle Plaine.
“We certainly have no objection to veterans’ memorials. But it is unlawful for a city government to display patently religious symbols on city property, even to commemorate our veterans,” continues the FFRF website. “It shows an endorsement of religion over non-religion. Additionally, the memorial sends a message that the government cares only about the death of Christian soldiers and is disdainful of the sacrifices made by non-Christian and nonreligious soldiers, since it excludes the one-third of the population that identifies as such. Please act appropriately and move the religious display off city property.”
The Belle Plaine City Council held a “closed” meeting on the issue on Jan. 3, citing attorney/client privilege as the reason to keep the meeting closed to the public and media.
City Administrator Mike Votca did not disclose any details from the closed meeting, but along with Mayor Chris Meyer, attended Monday night’s Belle Plaine Veterans Club meeting, and veterans representatives agreed to remove the cross from the display, as recommended by City Attorney Bob Vose. The soldier and rifle will remain.
Belle Plaine VFW Commander Larry Ruehling said he’s “disgusted” the FFRF would go this far.
“I see nothing wrong with it being there,” said Ruehling, adding that the display was put up several months ago by a family member of a recently deceased veteran.
During the holiday season of 2015, the FFRF objected to the community’s annual Nativity Scene being placed on city property (the police department grounds). The foundation used its First Amendment right to place a banner of its own next to the Nativity Scene that read:
“At this season of the Winter Solstice, let reason prevail. There are no Gods, no devils, no angles, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but a myth & superstition that hardens hearts & enslaves minds.”
The banner was stolen a short time after its placement before being returned and then stolen again.
While helping set up the Nativity Scene on private grounds at JD’s Auto Service this past November for the 2016 holiday season, Belle Plaine Rotary Club member Fred Keup said the decision to relocate the scene was that of the Rotary Club, not the city. He added that the consensus of the club was that it “just didn’t want anymore problems.”
As for the FFRF’s latest attempt to have a religious symbol removed from city property in Belle Plaine, an email to the Herald from Keith and Jennifer Lorensen in Pueblo, Colo., urged Belle Plaine to holds it ground.
“A friend notified me about the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s attempts to force your community to remove a veterans’ memorial from Veterans Park because it is offensive to those who practice no religion or non-Christians,” states the email. “We pray that you stand strong against the atheist bullies. Do not let them get a foothold in your community by bowing to the pseudo-altar of atheism. This organization marches it way across America, intimidating and threatening small communities, with the goal of eradicating the Judeo-Christian founding of our nation. They have been all the more emboldened these past eight years as attacks on religious liberty have escalated significantly under the outgoing president.”